Sometimes we learn as much from our hobbies as we do through our main profession.
I’ve worked in HR, Finance, and Strategic Planning at a Fortune 50 company for over 20 years. My day job has taught me a ton about leadership and what it takes to grow a business which has had decades of success. I also have interests outside of my 9-5. My family is important to me, and community involvement is another passion of mine. Over the last several years, I’ve also gotten back into collecting sports cards. While it is primarily a hobby for me, there is also a business aspect which I find extremely enjoyable.
One thing I think we often overlook is how many concepts and skills are transferable between our community involvement, our hobbies, and our day jobs. Too often we take one hat off, and put another one depending on which door we’re walking through. As my cardboard side hustle continued to grow, I’ve realized there are several things I’ve learned along the way which have contributed to my success. I think these same things can be applied to other areas of my life as well.
Would you join me as I discuss three universal business concepts which were reinforced through selling baseball cards?
Success comes when you are willing to do what others aren’t
I’m talking about hard work. There is opportunity everywhere if you are willing to put in the work necessary to take advantage of it. Every day there are talented people who don’t reach their full potential or capture the opportunities in front of them because they aren’t willing to put in the work to make it happen. It’s easier to just go with the flow. A quick return provides more short term satisfaction than slowly laying a foundation that can set you up for a greater long term gain.
For me, this concept applied to selling the cards that many collectors deemed worthless. Much of today’s hobby is driven by collectors chasing cards with autographs, and the standard photo card is an afterthought. Often times these cards are discarded or can be purchased in bulk at very cheap prices.
However, there is still a market for those cards. It takes work to take advantage of it, and I had to put in hours and hours sorting and organizing them so my customers could find what they’re looking for. I’ve built that inventory to over 100K cards which have the ability to generate sales month after month. What others viewed as worthless is creating profit because I was willing to put in the work necessary to create value.
Where is your opportunity to put in the work nobody else is willing to do? I promise it’s out there.
See the big picture
One of the things I most appreciate about my dad was how he taught me to take a long term view on life. Whether it was building a reputation or saving for retirement, he taught me to think about how my decisions today would potentially impact me years into the future. In my career, that skill has helped me tremendously in both my leadership and strategic planning roles.
It’s also helped me in the card world in a couple ways. I’ve noticed there is a significant segment of the collecting community that buys a product with the hope of getting a high value card. They then sell off those cards for whatever they can get in order to have the money needed to buy the next hot product. It’s a vicious cycle of short term thinking and is one of the most expensive ways to collect.
I’ve tried to buck that trend in a couple ways. First, I set aside funds and plan my purchases well into the future. By “preordering” cards, I often get them at a cost very close to wholesale which can sometimes be 50-60% of the retail price. Since I’m also only buying inventory with the profits from other sales, I have the freedom to be patient with my purchases and my sales. I can take advantage of market inefficiencies and scoop up cards being sold off too cheap, and then wait for the market to stabilize before selling them for more.
Another example involves taking a “loss” in one area in order to have exponentially bigger benefits in others. One of the online platforms I where I sell cards suggested sellers offer free shipping for their customers. Many sellers rejected the suggestion due to the drop in profit they would see from having to cover the full cost of shipping. However, those sellers didn’t take the time to step back and see the big picture.
They couldn’t look past that short term hit in revenue to see the even bigger advantage that offering free shipping would provide. Those sellers who offered free shipping would automatically get moved to the top of the inventory list. Instead of being buried in the middle of a list of hundreds of sellers, you would be moved to the top of the list and would be one of first sellers that customers would see. The relatively small hit to my shipping costs were more than outweighed by the additional sales this generated.
How can you take a step back to make sure the things right in front of you aren’t blocking your view of the big picture?
You can create the best content, but if nobody sees it then it doesn’t matter because nobody will benefit from it. You can have great products to sell, but if your customers don’t notice them, you won’t be able to meet their needs.
You are in a battle for attention. Gain attention, and then use that opportunity to serve your customers with great products and great content. I saw this first hand with the example I described above. When I moved to the top of the inventory list, customers could see my cards, and that gave me the opportunity to serve them well.
I also set up at a local card show and I’ve experimented with setting up my table in a variety of locations in the room. Over time, I landed on a spot that gives me the most visibility. It gives me the opportunity to draw customers in and connect with them. I have to gain their attention before they can appreciate the great prices and organization I have at my table.
Again, at the end of the day quality matters, but you have to win that battle for attention before people can benefit from the quality content or services you provide.
Wrapping it up
I’ve been able to use all three of these concepts in my day job as well. My team creates some great information our leaders would benefit from knowing, but if they aren’t aware of it then it can’t help them. I have made myself a more valuable employee by stepping up and doing some of the work that nobody else wants to do. And finally, I continue to strive to help our leaders look past short term results and focus on strategic decisions that set us up for long-term success.
What about you? Do any of these ideas connect with you in your world? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to discuss!
I also wrote about the business side of collecting in this article called “Does It Take Money To Make Money”. If you are new to collecting, or maybe you collected as a kid and are just getting back into it, my guest post at COMC.com may be helpful. It’s called Three Tips for the Returning Collector.