Just Make One

I stalled. I ran into challenges and instead of meeting them head on, I stalled. I thought the problems were too big to tackle. They weren’t. I just didn’t want to think about them. I was tired. I started facing issues on so many fronts,personal and professional, that I just decided to stop the largest onslaughts. That actually isn’t a bad strategy for the short term, but it’s August 2014, and I felt like I did at the beginning of last year.

I read an interesting article about willpower the other day. Essentially the article said, its not that we don’t have the willpower to stop smoking or start exercising, it’s we run out of willpower by the time we get to those bigger decisions. I ‘ran out’ of the willpower to fight the good fight and press on.I am an avid fan of Getting Things Done by David Allen. It’s a shame I didn’t actually follow through on projects and next actions for about ten months up until this post. David often speaks of rabbit trails. You start with an idea, which leads to another, which leads to another, and if you are a procrastinator, like I sometimes am, you happily run down those trails which lead to nowhere, chasing rabbits.

It started with the website. Many functions of the website weren’t working properly. I started to research the problems, which led me to dislike the design. Yes I know all of these things are minor in comparison to, let’s say, making some damn chess sets, and checkers, but I was hunting wabbits. Then I had an idea for a product. Well, two products. OK seven. I pursued each one with gusto, until a faced a challenge. Maybe it was manufacturing, or what was a marketing message. I don’t really recall except that when i ran into a bump in the road, I just moved on to a different project. I even stopped posting. The posting helped me clear my head and refocus.

I needed to refocus. I stared re reading my previous posts. I remember saying this as I read this post.


Make. Just. One.

So I can feel it coming back. My words from the past, guiding a new future. So I am back at it. I give myself 10 days. Two molds a day.

Yeah I can see it

Make Just One.

That has been my mantra for the last few months. I have been bootstrapping this endeavor, paycheck by paycheck and I am ever so close. I have ordered the prototype storage box, with laser etching. Spray painting the pieces was not the answer. The set , as always must be easily playable and color is a huge determining factor in being able to tell the pieces apart. Pewter wont turn to a different color with a chemical reaction the way other metals will so I was forced to either paint , ( a very bad idea) or place on them some marking so you know can remember which pieces are yours. My prototype Bishop is an even uglier red mess after I hit it with the spray paint, so Swarovski® crystals it is.

I went to discountbeadslv at 4266 Durango Drive and was I educated. Truth telling time. I thought Swarovski® crystals were a kind of  scam. When we had Chess Moves in the Aladdin Hotel and Casino, there was a Swarovski store in the mall with their $1,000 chess set which I didn’t’ think looked like much. A crystal is a crystal is a crystal. Can it be worth ten times the price of other crystals? Marianne educated me in more ways than one. She pulled out the baby blue bead mat and sprinkled some Swarovski #16 red flat backs . Then she pulled out a tray marked Chinese imports # 16 red flat backs. She pinched both piles together and said,

” Pick out the Swarovski®.”

I was about tell her she was going to spend the rest of her day trying to separate the different crystals until I saw it. Plain as day , like separating apples and oranges. The Chinese crystals were dull and lifeless while the Swarovski shimmered as if powered by the Sun. “Yeah I can see it now” I said. And I could.

Like I said, I have been bootstrapping this practically paycheck to paycheck and it was hard to see the finish line. The set backs, both major and minor, have taken a little bit of a toll on my spirit. How do I present this in a way that would make you as excited as I am to hold it in your hands? How can I differentiate between the pieces so you could know which piece was yours easily and effortlessly?

Then the cost. How can I do more and spend less. This is getting to be an expensive set. Am i providing value? Is someone going to say the set cost too much, or more pointedly ask where do I come off charging what I charge for this set. Will I sell any of them?

Then I look at the Bishop , rimmed with shimmering red crystals. The level of detail in each arm straining to hold a shield or wield a mace. It’s a beautiful set. One of the nicest sets I have ever seen. People will appreciate what I have done. They will acknowledge the craftsmanship. And they will buy one for someone close. Yeah I see it.

This is a test

Something is very wrong with the website. Specifically I can’t make any changes to the website. I get Error 404 – Page not found! every time I try to save a change. No error message is good yet that is a particularly bad message. I am getting frustrated. I went onto Shapeways to check on progress of the final masters I need to make the molds from. Out of eight pawns, seven have completed checks and are being produced. I have my been staring at that last one for two days now. It’s still processing. I have checked the files before I uploaded them and they should be water tight therefore printable yet its been two days. (If you don’t understand what I am talking about, go here.) Tap Plastics which I order my silicone molding compound from is out for two weeks. Yet another delay. I have been sitting here for going on 4 hours trying to figure out what is wrong. I have installed and uninstalled a dozen items and still nothing. So I sit. So much has been going wrong this year I contemplated just throwing the rest of this year away and starting fresh in 2014. So I tried one last thing before I essentially deleted the website and started again from scratch. I would write a post to see if that would work. And it did.

This is a test.

Hey it worked awesome. Then I went back to making changes on the website. Error 404 – Page not found!  Things that were suppose to be so easy to execute were becoming so difficult. One step step forward and two steps back. Nothing has to be so easy for me but why does everything have to be so hard? Was I going to be stuck in this uniform for the rest of my days? Was I going to tell Ben no way too often when I wanted it to be a yes? I stared at the screen wondering what was going wrong. I didn’t want to basically start over again but felt like I might have to. I stared at the post.

This is a test. This is a test. This is a test.

This is a test. What else could I call it? OK so I have to delete the entire website and start from scratch. Fun. And I have to wait. Launch date was suppose to be in May pushed to October 1st. Fine November 1st we launch. I will not let my setbacks anchor me frozen where I am like concrete hardening. More things will happen before I launch. The challenges are speed bumps not road blocks. The next time something happens, I have to remember, This is only test.

and then there was silence…

We are getting closer to launching our first product, A Call To Arms and I realized that if when we achieve great success, I am going to need some more pewter. A lot. 14,000 lbs to be precise. RotoMetals is one of the companies I am working with to get schaeffergames going. I thought I should give them a call.

Me: ” Hey Dave, how much pewter do you have on hand generally?”

Dave: Don’t worry Chris, we have hundreds of pounds of pewter.”

Me: ” I am going to need a lot if when we are as successful as I am planning.”

Dave:” So, how much do you think you need?”

Me:” About 7 tons.”

Dave:” … ”

Dave:”Hold on a sec….”


BHAG. Big, hairy audacious goal. A Call To Arms is limited to 2013 sets. My BHAG is to sell them all for the holidays Christmas.That is what we envision. Well, that’s what I envision.  Ben’s BHAG is to have a Nintendo 3DS XL. ” So Daddy, My BHAG is to sell all the chess sets and be rich so I can get a Nintendo 3DS XL.”   Hey,at least the kid has goals.

So I needed to prepare for success. Its a great exercise. It’s not about dreaming and wishing. It’s about anticipating challenges ahead and how to overcome them. I don’t know what I would do if Dave said they couldn’t possibly produce the pewter I needed in the time frame I was looking for on November 15th. However on August 25th, I can search for more sources if Dave couldn’t produce. Luckily he can so no matter what happens when we go live, we will be as ready as we can.  Of course i have no idea where to put 7 tons of pewter, but that is the next challenge.

I hope when you pursue your dreams that you think big, as in BHAG.

the countdown begins

“That looks great Dad!”

Ben thought it was way cool, and then went back to Pokemon. His smile was almost as big as mine. The Bishop was still hot, even fifteen minutes later. I had the materials to mold the first piece for almost a month but I was scared to pull the trigger. If it didn’t work out, then what do I do? The mold took two days. Waiting for the pewter block to melt seemed to take forever. Then the pour. Maybe fifteen seconds before the molten pewter filled the pour spout. I touched the silicon mold box. It was still hot. Finally I opened to mold.  All the time I had spent visualizing molding it was working in my favor. I was a bit too excited and I could have worked the clay a bit more but the results were as I hoped.

Making a complex mold for the pieces A Call to Arms took a lot of thought. Measure twice, cut once. Begin with the end in mind. It’s all in the prep. Now that I know I can actually mold this chess set, there is nothing but to do it. I think that is the hardest part of this process, is seeing the end. I think every endeavor has to be sitting down and just thinking.

This seems  obvious but I know of a person who I am trying to help start her website. I did most of the technical parts, installing the store on the server and doing the very basics for the environment. Then I told to stop think and plan. Before you make a product make a product category. Before you make a product category, stop and review all of the products you would like to sell. Her enthusiasm led her down a different path and she is stalled a bit.

Too many people start with the great idea. They run into a challenge, and quit. That’s when you stop and think. This all seems so obvious yet you cant let the hiccup n the process derail you. Pull back and think how to overcome. Have plans. Have backup plans. Have backup backup plans. Begin with the end in mind.

Within a few weeks I will get the rest of my molds and make the first set.

We have no money to do that!

Constraint promotes creativity would probably be a better way to phrase that.

Someone asked me once if I had any advice for them when starting a business. I wasn’t sure what to say since this has barely lifted off the ground for me. I love to read business cases and business magazines. Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur and all the rest. I have enjoyed sharing stories of businesses overcoming obstacles and being successful. The one piece of advice that has worked for me is pretend you have half or even less than half of the starting capital you have right now. Now make some decisions and go spend some money.

I wouldn’t be nearly as happy with what I am doing if some banker gave me the capital I thought I needed. I wouldn’t have waited a moment to make decisions because I had the money in the bank and wanted to go ahead. From general design down to packaging, I thought longer and harder because I had to be very careful about how I spent my money and every choice I feel was fantastic for it.

I literally waited for payday to buy all the materials I needed.  Meanwhile, I would roll over in my head, is this the best silicone I could buy? Do I need this tool to achieve this effect? I changed my mind more than a few dozen times and I am so much more satisfied with the result. Why is my packaging so attention getting ( I think) with A Call to Arms?  It started because overseas manufacturers of chess boxes wanted 1500 pc minimums at 40.00 a box. $60,000.I didn’t have that. The more I thought about it, the box didn’t work. It was a very nice box but it didn’t go with the design. This was (chess) war. You need ammunition and an ammo box in war. The box is rustic and totally has a battlefield feel to it. It works and I love it. I hope you do too. Because I had to be so very careful with every dollar I spent, I was very careful about what I was spending it on and I made better decisions.

We have no money to do that goes further I think. Bert Reisman, a very smart man who gave me my second job ever said to me once, ” No one watches your money the way you do”. I want to change that slightly to no one watches your money the way you should. That includes your employees, vendors, accountant, everyone. Metrics, big data, whatever you want to call it, where is your money, and that includes time, going?

It might mean spending more for a tool in your business. Perhaps this means opening the books enough to help employees understand your decisions and perhaps find ways to improve service/cut costs. I am not suggesting to be on the cheap with everything, but think before you spend, if I am emptying my bank account with this purchase, will I be happy at the end? No matter what I buy now, I always filter it through this process.

Prove to yourself that spening this much on that is worth it. That is what I did. With every purchase.  Now I have Schaeffer Games. Pretty damn cool.

One more thing, never buy business cards before you have a product or service.

Made in the USA

Do you know how much cheaper it is if you go to China?

I have heard that more times than I care to remember. Let me tell the truth, it would be. Most likely. Perhaps.You can’t make everything for a dime which is what everyone thinks but it is certainly cheaper. But there is a cost that few factor in. Have you seen the price of an airline ticket to China? Then you need to hire a translator who also smooths the process of dealing with those factory owners to make your whatever. I have read about businessmen spending a week eating and drinking with those owners, never talking business until they decide they like you enough to do business.

I can’t tell you exactly when I decided to make my games here, but when I did, I felt great. I wanted complete control over the process. I wanted to see the first piece completed and hold it in my hand.  Actually as I type I do remember when I decided to make what you see in the US by my hands. The day I decided to put my son’s initials on everything I make.

Staring at my sketch book, many years ago, I thought about having my name on the sets. Schaeffer Games. Originally I wanted to call my company Avila Games after the patron saint of chess Saint Teresa of Avila.

I was in a phase.

But I wanted to look at what I made from my own hand. It needed my mark.

Ben snores. Has since I can remember. I was watching him sleep, listening to him sleep many years ago, thinking I need to get out of this security uniform and make sure I give him a good life. Not have a father come home in the morning, too tired to play. Not have a father whose mind was occupied with how to pay this bill or that and not the next bit of fun we could have together.

“I am doing this for myself”, I said to myself, “but I am also doing this for him.” So his initials had to be on the sets. So he could see what his Dad does and be proud. I imagined the conversations he would have with his friends. “My Dad makes all kinds of fun games. And I help.”  He could come into the workshop and watch me. Maybe even actually help.

I do talk to him about “our” company from time to time. He is as interested as most 7 year olds, which is to say not very much at all, but that is OK. I wonder if Buffet’s kids listened to the Oracle of Omaha at 7. Probably not. I don’t expect to get rich. But I think I can make a living and show my baby boy something about hard work and determination.

I also want to show him what wonderful things can happen here for him. That is why its Made in the USA for me.