Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!
(Apologies to the good Doctor Seuss for ripping off his title)
The good part of things being quiet lately is having time to think. So I strapped on my cap and fired up the thinker, and one of the things I thought about last week was that my office is a disaster area.
I don’t mean where I work at home. I have a space rental office in town that is primarily a warehouse for old magazines and our store items. It is a windowless box in an office building that I hardly ever visit. My capable associates, David and Hannah, drop in a few times each week to fulfill store orders (mostly Newbies books these days) and mail out back issues, and other than that the place is empty. I go there once a week to pick up checks and mail. The mail is usually a note from a subscriber (enclosed with their renewal check) that tells me how much they love Airstreaming or Airstream Life magazine.
So when I’m feeling a little down from working too much or a rough day, I can drive a few miles to the office and get a little morale boost in the form of something to deposit in the bank and an “atta boy” or two from a fellow Airstreamer. There have been days that my entire perspective has been changed by just a single $24 check with a nice handwritten note paper-clipped to it. I do love my subscribers, they’re such positive and fun people.
But lately the office itself has been looking a little shabby. Since we are all just dropping in for a few minutes, nobody really takes ownership of it. We handle a lot of paper in there, which means little scraps get all over the carpet, dust accumulates quickly, and flattened cardboard boxes nearly fill the place every few months. I scheduled Hannah last week for a couple of hours to join me in what will likely be our annual cleaning event. I brought the vacuum cleaner and cold drinks, Hannah brought the moral fortitude that comes with being in her 20s.
The big problem in the office is that we had an abundance of certain old issues of Airstream Life magazine. Back in the early days I was required to buy 5,000 copies from the printer as a minimum. Of course back then I didn’t have anywhere near 5,000 subscribers, and it was a massive financial strain to pay for those copies and then figure out how to sell them. I donated a lot of copies to rallies to get the word out, distributed them for free to Airstream dealers, and worked hard to sell them as back issues. For the most part this was successful. In later years, when we finally exceeded 5,000 subscribers, I was able to order more precisely and so these days we have very few leftovers.
Part of the office cleanup job was to inventory what’s left. We have no copies of issues published before #6 (Fall 2005), and no more than 200 copies of any other issue (far fewer in most cases). Out of 29 issues published to date, 20 of them are still available in very limited quantities.
I’ve decided I want to clear out the back issues. The IKEA “Expedit” storage unit I use in the office is full and it’s time to make space. So here’s a bit of self-promotion. Airstream Life back issues are going on sale for the first time ever. Single copies are still $8 apiece. But if you want every back issue of Airstream Life we have in stock, they are now 40% off when purchased as a set. In other words, all 20 remaining back issues — the equivalent of five years of Airstream Life — are just $96 plus shipping. And when they’re gone, they’re gone forever.
I can’t take credit for this idea, because the thinking was really done by David. I invited him to join me last night for a pizza and he rewarded me with a little brainstorm of ideas, of which this was only one. (I think that makes dinner tax-deductible, too. I should have paid with the company credit card.) It’s a small thing but I’ve learned that the small things matter in a small business. Do enough small things right and pretty soon it adds up. Cleaning the office led to a pizza-fueled discussion, which led to a good idea. I made things neater, got fed, had a nice chat and now we can sell the last of the back issues. If every day went that way, I’d be a pretty lucky guy.