March 6, 2011: Three Years As "Boss"
While I was in New York for Toy Fair, an anniversary popped up that had me sit back and think about Steve Jackson Games, my role with the company, and how to improve on what has come before. I have now held the position of Chief Operating Officer for over three years. While there have been a lot of frustrations and sleepless nights, I like to think that, in the end, I've done a decent enough job as the "boss" around here. (I put "boss" because the company continues to be Steve's; my job is to keep everything flowing as smoothly as possible and to execute Steve's ideas.) With that in mind, let's take a look at the last three years.
- Munchkin has continued to grow. During my first year as COO, Steve and I determined that we needed someone other than him to manage day-to-day Munchkin operations. We settled on Andrew Hackard, both because Andrew knew the company and because, when it comes to bad puns, Andrew can make even Steve groan.
- Munchkin Quest went from a concept to a published game . . . complete with expansions! Though it was a huge job, it was one of the highlights of the last three years. The game really taught us a lot about producing heavy boxes packed with excellent components. We're still using (and improving) that knowledge today as we work on new projects like Ogre and the upcoming new edition of The Awful Green Things from Outer Space.
- Revolution! and Nanuk were two games we published in the last three years that I'm especially proud of. Revolution! was a fantastic find and has performed quite well for us, while Nanuk is a fun party game that hasn't sold as well as I would like. We don't get enough chances to bring new game designs to market, and I'm happy that both of these are out there and available for people to discover and play.
- We've become more efficient at game production, with fewer games shipping late and more games going to the printer ahead of schedule. As of now I've almost got everything in place so all of our 2011 releases will be at print before July. This is important because the farther ahead we can get on our schedule the more time we have to work on really big games. And with the way 2012 is shaping, up we'll need all the time we can get.
But not everything has gone beautifully, and there are some issues that eat at me at night. These are problems I just cannot seem to conquer, and until each one of these is beaten I will continue to fight them.
- Our online webstore, Warehouse 23, is not as good as it should be. We recently stopped taking pre-orders on games because of internal problems with the site, we cannot sell PDFs and printed books in a single order, and the site looks out-of-date and is not as easy to navigate as I would like. A redesign and upgrade of the store is an absolute necessity (if only so that I am happier with our online store).
- There are too many last-minute "oh yeah, that!" times as we're sending a game to print. I do not take a hands-on approach when it comes to actual design and production -- my job is supposed to be people and project management on a large scale -- so I continue to be frustrated when a game is ready for print except for one little piece of the puzzle. I think everyone in the office will be happier when they don't see me with that face on the days a game is going to print.
- I'm not 100% satisfied with our appearance at conventions. We're working on improving the look of our booth at shows, but we're not good enough yet.
In general we're running smoothly and, as Steve's Report to the Stakeholders shows, we're profitable and sales continue to increase. I like to think I've had a hand in helping with our growth and efficiencies, and I'll continue to do what I can to keep our games on shelves and to get some new ones out of Steve's head and into your hands.
-- Phil Reed