Watch on YouTube
Listen on PodBean
Starting a business takes experience, or capital, or both.
Jonathan and Gary met while studying Buddhism at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, CA.
Post graduation, Gary Ray spent 10 years in IT before he launched Black Diamond Games – a hobby game store (think board games, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic The Gathering; not video games) in Concord, CA.
His book, Friendly Local Game Store: A Five-Year Path to a Middle-Class Income, was written as a nuts and bolts guide to starting a store and was published in early 2018.
It describes a path of joy, and heart. Doing what you love to survive and not be poor. He didn’t set out to build wealth and while he has not built up a large portfolio of stocks or real estate, he has created a level of time-freedom that financially wealthy business people would envy.
For Gary, True Wealth is a time & money issue. You have to have enough money to enable you to spend your time the way you want.
Starting a Small Business
Every business owner starts out indispensable to his or her business. Creating the right balance of financial wealth and time freedom requires developing processes and procedures so that they become dispensable to the business. When the business can run without me, then I am able to do the next thing.
In the beginning, Gary was chained to the counter (chained to the business) – it took a great manager to tell him to go home. When he did, he discovered valuable projects that would boost business sitting in plain sight on the back burner. He did projects until the projects were over and then… on to the next thing… time with my son. Every summer was an opportunity for travel with him.
The Greatest lessons of travel for his son were that it was full of adversity and demanded resilience.
Learning How-To Take Breaks
His first year in business, Gary had 3 days off. He worked 65 hours a week or more. It wasn’t until his 3rd year that he took a whole weekend off.
At that point, when I took a vacation everything would fall apart. This is what small business owners experience. A lot of them might say, “well, I’m never going to do that again.” But that is a trap.
You have to keep faith in people and you have to build processes, procedures, and systems of accountability.
During Covid, we were forced to close the doors… but we still had bills. I stepped in and did the entire business for a few months by myself. This reminded me that I knew how to do it and that I could do it. So, when we opened up, I hired people and was able to trust them even more.
Trusting that you can disengage and knowing that you can step-in and take over if you have to is a great lesson from the pandemic.
Obstacles to true wealth and fulfillment:
“I can’t have everything. I have friends who are wealthy. They can do A, B, and C… and maybe I can do C with them.” I can only afford my one thing… it also means my “retirement” savings are not where they should be.
There are lots of folks out there who have all the financial resources they will ever need. They hate their jobs. Yet they keep going to work. Gary has friends in this category, but he doesn’t understand it at all. It makes no sense to him.
People have a built up lifestyle. The lifestyle is built up as a distraction from their general unhappiness with their work. And they don’t see the lifestyle as the salve for the unhappy work-environment, so they don’t know how their expenses will change (probably go down) when they escape that unhappy work-environment and no longer need the salve. This means that they save too much.
I didn’t start the business to become wealthy. I wanted to do something that was more from my heart… the “freedom” came later.
One of the things you learn is that “Staff come first, they are the first priority.” – even at the expense of customers. You protect them and take care of them, they will run it faithfully without you… they may actually prefer it without you.
A business plan was instrumental – inclusive of P&Ls, Balance sheets, and all those metrics that most small business people have no idea about. This forces a new owner to do the research and plan out and forecast sales and expenses and growth.
Planning gives you a model when you don’t have one. Starting a business is going to be scary. You will be filled with self-doubt. But the plan gives you guidelines.
But, you should know that “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” The plan will need to be a living document. As you learn you will try new things.
Achievement and Wealth as a Social Positive.
We have to have a little bit of faith in the system’s ability to bring people out of poverty. This is what we see in our system in the US. History shows that our system has been very effective at reducing poverty.
And… I still have my doubts because I have a Buddhist background.