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When the going gets tough, the tough consult

As I’ve mentioned before, times are tough. In my ‘real’ life as a copier repairman, this has had the unintended consequence of making my job more secure, and encouraging my supervisors to invest time and money into me for training and certification. See, right now everyone’s chimped down, holding out as long as they can on big ticket purchases like a $20,000 copier and guys like me are busier than ever keeping the old copier running.

It makes for long days from time to time, but right now I’m actually pretty happy. I’ve got good bosses, I work for a good company, and aside from the frayed nerves of my customers, and the AC crapping out in my truck, all is pretty well in my world.

As in real life, paintball is a microcosm of real life, and it has entered an interesting phase. A lot of people are hiring or associating with experts who also happen to be media. It’s a tough business, so you have to be flexible and willing to work hard to make a living. In my case, it’s doubly so because I’m “controversial”. Along with “Unfortunate” and “Hypocrisy”, “Controversial” is one of my new favorite words. “Inglorious” is coming up the list as well…I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the title itself promises good things.

Before I go too much further, let me explain a few things that will shed light on my perspective. I grew up near a small town in Indiana, the eldest son of an X-Ray technician and a Metallurgical Engineer. My father is an extremely intelligent, self-taught man who chose to become expert in a highly technical, specialized field. My mother is also extremely intelligent, and while she went to college like most women of her generation, her real education occurred in the real world. In addition to my father’s cold demeanor, and my mother’s inherent bluntness, I’ve also inherited their intelligence. Of course I also inherited their stunning good looks, but that’s not germane to this editorial. I thank God every day for these blessings, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

What I don’t have is a ‘formal’ education. I graduated high school just like a lot of other kids at Brown County High School in 1988, but unlike a lot of those kids, I didn’t immediately head off to college. I wanted to see a bit of the world and do some things before I cloistered myself at an institution of higher learning. After a false start in the military, and some time out in the world working and learning things the hard way, I ended up at technical school in Oklahoma. I graduated with an A.A.S in Avionics and Instruments and went to work for a subsidiary of Hughes Aerospace building aircraft instruments.

Along the way I rediscovered paintball, and after a failed marriage, new marriage and a discovery of God-given talent, here I am. All controversial and stuff. Call me a black sheep.

Before I get myself looped into a self-serving advertisement for my skills, I’ll stop right here. This isn’t necessarily about my skills, or lack thereof. The point I’m trying to make is that education can be helpful, but it’s not the total package. Likewise, the education doled out in the school of hard knocks isn’t totally where it’s at either.

Here lately I’ve been watching some of my brethren in the media spreading their proverbial wings in order to make a living. I can understand that, and nobody wants to be like a certain over-educated individual who’s running a formerly respected media outlet into obscurity by way of mediocrity. A lot of my colleagues are ‘consulting’, which is a nice way of saying they’re hiring out their talents to those in need of them. I do it, and I have several clients who are extremely happy with the assistance I’ve been able to render them.

Here lately though, I’m starting to see a trend of some offering themselves up as experts when their expertise could be held up to question. Personally I don’t have a problem with this…if people and businesses are willing to spend money on someone’s perceived expertise, then by all means, have at it! My experience in the business side of paintball is limited to running media websites, freelance writing, reaching the novice level in the PSP in 2004, playing lots and lots of scenario games and running a small shop here in FL, which unfortunately (one of my favorite words, even though the situation sucked) failed. So while I have nearly 21 years experience as a player, 9 years of that as a writer and media guy, I’m probably not the guy you want teaching you how to run your field or store.

So, what’s my point here? The point is, paintball as a whole is in a downturn, and perhaps it’s time to depend on a mixture of hard-earned experience and education to get things going again. It’s my opinion that there’s a genuine need for people in the sport with educations in journalism, marketing, and other relevant educational paths to help apply the theories they’ve learned in order to make the hard-earned experience of those out in the hinterlands actually running fields and stores more effective for everyone. Rather than looking from the top down and trying to ‘help’ field and store owners, how about getting down in the weeds with them and working with them to make their businesses more successful, which in turn means that they’ll have need to buy more products from your business?

Just some random thoughts from a controversial, unfortunate, potentially inglorious player out here in the hinterlands. We have voices too, and perhaps it’s time to start listening.

  • sectionate
    August 23, 2009

    well, you could always have a side business as being the world’s hairiest man in the local circus…

  • STS1
    August 24, 2009

    Good call Dale, I get tired of hearing what I should do by people that don’t have any successful experience. People that can do it actually do it, those that can’t teach it.

  • tsp8ntball
    August 24, 2009

    As a store and field owner I am quickly running out of the patience required to deal with the “educated” paintball media and marketing gurus. I’ve been shouting from the hinterlands down that dry hole for years. Their quest for the quick buck rules. As long as I can still find 68 caliber paintballs and as long as I can keep my current rentals bolted together I’ll continue to let the customer call the shots (pardon the pun). When that’s gone I’ll bid my adieu.

  • Reiner
    August 30, 2009

    It seems some of those in the paintball media are in buisiness and feel their expertise will help those that are thinking of starting a field or store and those that are floundering with a current field or store.

    I think there is some value there for those with no business experience and little common sense. Since in the past many field owners and store owners fell into the category, there might be a market there.

    Those that do have some common sense, know they don’t need those services.

  • Sideshow
    September 2, 2009

    But how can one who ISN’T in buisiness, or hasn’t been for years, be an effective teacher for how to operate and run something in the 2009 market of times? Thats like a former corvette mechanic of the 80′s trying to teach a class on the 09 models, without ever seeing one!

  • Reiner
    September 10, 2009

    “But how can one who ISN’T in buisiness, or hasn’t been for years, be an effective teacher for how to operate and run something in the 2009 market of times? Thats like a former corvette mechanic of the 80’s trying to teach a class on the 09 models, without ever seeing one!”

    Not to try to defend anyone, but general business practices stay fairly constant. Your Corvette analogy compares two very technically different things. People with the knowledge for instance can teach general rocket science without ever havng been employed as rocket scientists. ;)

    One of the big problems our industry has had over the years is that field/store owners have not had general business knowledge. It’s good to be able to think like a player/customer, but it’s also important to know how to run a business.

    Having said all that, you need to make sure if you are getting business advice, the people you are getting it from are qualified to give it, which is what the article is about. Like everything else, “Buyer Beware”.

    The best business people are the ones that can figure things out for themselves, and/or have the ability to recognize the difference between good and bad advice. In the end, people in business will succeed or fail by their own decision making capabilities.

  • Sideshow
    September 10, 2009

    I understand what you mean, perhaps my analogy wasnt the correct one. My point is more along the lines of this, running a business is pretty straight forward, however marketing your business has to evolve with the times.

    I have owned a few business adventures in the past, Tattoo Shops, Night Clubs, Mechanic Shops, etc.. in the past, and while a standard format for running them is the same, there is still much that has to be adapted for it to run today then it did 5 years ago, 10 years ago. Someone who ran something before, and left that part of the industry is teaching with dated material.

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