I should be on an airplane to New Jersey right now. I purchased a ticket to Newark for $400 two weeks ago, in order to fly a two-day comics convention this upcoming weekend in Wayne, New Jersey. I started having second thoughts about my trip to New Jersey early last week, however, when I had a complete memory blackout as to what I had done with the 30,000+ comics that I had purchased in late May at WizardWorld - Philadelphia. I know that this will sound strange, but it took me two days of really thinking about it to figure out that I had already shipped all those boxes full of comics back to Denver. Oliver, from The Encounter in Allentown, PA had helped me wrap all 85 long boxes in the front of his store on the Monday following the convention, and then shipped them for me via UPS on Tuesday. The sad truth is, however, that had I not found a long box lid containing the Oliver's store's return address, I might still be searching for those comics today. Suffice it to say, after eight long months on the road buying old comics non-stop at conventions, I think that I have finally reached my breaking point. Sadly, not remembering what I did with the Philadelphia books is not the only memory blackout that I am dealing with these days...
Complicating life even further for me right now are two additional stress factors: the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con International, and a very destructive water main break four weeks ago that totally flooded my 11,000 square foot Thornton, Colorado Mega-Store. As fate would have it, our replacement store location for Thornton will finally be ready for us to move in right at the same time as we're supposed to leave for San Diego. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours... I have no idea as of yet as to precisely how I am going to orchestrate moving the store, especially since we're being forced to downsize form 11,000 square feet to 4,000. I do have a small amount of free warehouse space, but the astounding tonnage of merchandise and fixtures that we packed into Thornton is almost impossible to conceptualize. I think that we're just going to have to rent a very big truck, and then move one truckload at a time, until we're eventually finished.
In case you're wondering, my point in telling you about all of these difficulties on my part is not intended to elicit sympathy from you. I wasn't even going to write about the Thornton flooding in this column at all, but my editor suggested to me in Chicago that I should at least mention the fact that we lost several hundred thousand dollars in fixtures, inventory, and lost sales when a massive water main break sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of water geysering through the floor in the back of the store. That having been said, I want you to know that I totally appreciated all of the notes of empathy and kind offers of help that I received after the news of the Thornton flood first surfaced on the comics news sites. In reality, however, our decades of careful thrift have left us with the financial resources to recover from even a loss as large as this one on our own. That being the case, I asked those who offered me assistance to instead seek to help some of those comics folks who were wiped out in last month's the flooding in Iowa and Illinois. Many of those good people do not have anything like our huge back issue inventory to fall back upon during times of distress, so they really do need our help. For me, however, while the loss of our largest store may be very unpleasant, it's a hit that I can (eventually) recover from on my own.
Tying everything that I've just mentioned together a bit, you need to know that it is inevitable that things will go wrong when you are in business for yourself. Late last Summer, for example, I was ill for 90 days with West Nile Encephalitis of the Hypothalamus. I recovered from that serious illness only to discover that our sales had tanked during the period while I was sick. Among other reasons, this drop in sales occurred because my illness made it impossible for me to go to conventions to buy restock for our depleted back issue inventory. After I regained my health, it took me six months of full bore efforts in buying wholesale back issue comics at conventions to get our sales back into positive territory. No sooner did I have that problem fixed, however, then that damn water main broke. In all honesty, I find that it is frequently hard to not become discouraged when every day seems to bring yet another major hurdle that need to be overcome. It is precisely dealing with the endless issue of problem solving, however, that differentiates a good businessperson, from one who will not survive. Resiliency and toughness are absolute necessities when you to into business for yourself. Presuming that you have half a lick of talent, there will certainly be good days during which everything you touch turns golden. You learn after a while to treasure those moments, however, as they are few and far between. You also learn to squirrel away assets whenever you possibly can for a rainy day. As my experiences of the past eleven months have clearly illustrated, there will be times when the difference between survival and failure is the level of thrift you have exercised in the past. Blessedly, I am so tight with our money that I can squeeze a nickel so hard that six pennies pop out. While that penurious part of my nature may be annoying to my staff on the days when everything is going right, they sure do appreciate that we have solid financial fall back position when the bad days inevitably arrive...
Another key factor for survival during times of crisis is the strength of your professional relationships. In the comics business that means that you absolutely need to have a good rapport with Diamond, and also with the major publishers. They are the ones who can really help you get through temporary setbacks. I personally also treasure my relationship with our banker, as she has been there for us in times of distress more times than I can remember. All relationships are built upon mutual trust, however, so it is absolutely critical that you strive to always keep your word with anyone with whom you deal. Believe it, or not, your personal credibility is actually your most valuable asset when times get rough.
That's it for today's tips on how to stay in business during tough times. So you know, my current plan is to spend the next ten days recovering my personal health on my farm, and then to leave for the 12 days required to drive to, and from, San Diego. During the time that I am gone, our prospective new Thornton store should be cleaned and painted. Presuming that all goes as planned, upon my return we'll start moving. Come hell or high water, however, I will be taking a couple of weeks in August off to rest in Santa Fe. September is the beginning of the new season for comics buying, beginning especially with Marc Nathan's wonderful Baltimore Comic-Con. Presuming that I can (once again) recover my health, I can't wait to get back out on the road to even more comics conventions!
Before I leave you, a quick note about the frequency of this column. I have been asked by quite a few readers about why I skipped writing a column for the May issue of CBG. Simply put, I was too tired to write. During late April and early May, I was at a convention (literally) every weekend. During the intervening weekdays, I was working 12-hour days picking comics at various individual comics stores all up and down the East Coast. The thought of writing a column for all of you was always in the back of my mind, but while my spirit was willing, my body was just too exhausted. I promise you that I will try to stay on a monthly schedule in the future, as writing this column for you really does mean a lot to me. That having been said, however, I can only do what my health and stamina will allow me to do. Your understanding in this matter is greatly appreciated.
Please send your e-mails to
your letters to:
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221