Would You Rather…be a Desk Jockey or Ride a Business Roller Coaster as a Career?

Randy Horn

For me, the answer was definitely ride the roller coaster. I’m Randy Horn, owner of Zobmondo!! Entertainment and creator of the “Would You Rather…?” line of board games. I started my company 13 years ago while pursuing my MBA at UCLA’s Anderson School of Business. We were required to write a business plan and I desperately needed a good business idea to take the class. After a group dinner filled with sarcastic fun, one of my friends said “why don’t you build a game out of those ‘would you rather…?’ questions you’re always asking us?” I decided I had nothing to lose and that at the very least I would learn how to write a business plan.

But the more I got into the process of developing the game, the more passionate I became about the possibilities of turning it into a real business. We made up quite a few “would you rather…?” questions to help break the ice and start conversations so I knew that people really responded. I’d seen magical things happen when people who don’t know each other had great material to use as ice breakers. When my series of presentations at school became standing-room only affairs and venture capitalists offered to invest, I became convinced that I had a winning idea for a game and a company.

Today Zobmondo!! publishes several “Would You Rather..?” games for all ages, plus The Ladybug Game, Life’s a Pitch, the soon-to-be-released Party Gras, and several sports-oriented Go Zone dice games. For the most part it’s been an upward ride, but there have been definite ups and downs along the way.

The best advice I ever received was to keep an eagle eye on cash flow. You can be flying right along with excellent distribution, increasing sales, and fantastic exposure, but if you can’t pay your bills on time then the people you do business with will lose confidence in you and you’ll lose the ability to effectively run your own affairs. Manufacturing a consumer product requires months and sometimes years-ahead cash flow planning. In the toy and game arena, the vast majority of sales happen in the fourth quarter, which means even more attention to detail is required when planning cash flow.

The best thing I’ve done through the years is stay lean. For a $6 million company to have only one employee is pretty rare. The Zobmondo!! team equals about 12 people, most of whom are independent contractors focused on Zobmondo’s success. I scrutinize spending constantly and through a microscope. I believe that this the single most important thing I do to maintain a profitable business.

Since lean operations are so important to us, we regularly take advantage of the business services offered by Costco. From credit card services to phone systems to check printing, they really understand small business. I feel very fortunate to have this resource, as well as free online services offered by Google. We use YouTube to distribute videos about our games. Only a few short years ago video distribution was cost prohibitive and we did not purse it.

The most difficult aspect of entrepreneurialism is maintaining emotional balance through good days and bad. It’s great when things are going well and devastating when they’re going poorly. I don’t remember the ups and downs being so prominent when I was an employee of someone else’s company. Since I am Zobmondo!!, it’s up to me to maintain an even keel for everyone on our team, lead the way through challenges, always keep a positive outlook and play the role of cheerleader to keep morale high. After all, we’re a game company. We sell fun! Fortunately, I’m an upbeat guy, even though some days are hard. Frankly, I suspect most people are not “wired” to suffer through the low lows of owning their own business.

For Zobmondo!!, good news reigns: in 2007, Zobmondo!! made the Inc. magazine list of fastest-growing companies in America, debuting at number 16 for consumer product companies. We’ve received attention from many major media outlets, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. We have a great reputation among retailers and consumers for providing quality products guaranteed to provide fun times. This helps us each time we introduce a new product. All Zobmondo!! games go through a rigorous testing period to fine-tune and keep the fun factor high.

If I could be granted one wish, I’d request more access to reasonably-priced capital. The small business owner is constantly in a quandary about how to finance growth. In this rough economy, the banks do not lend willingly and if you can find capital it’s usually very expensive. This combined with a very difficult tax burden leaves less and less available to re-invest in the business … so growth is a tough slow grind.

After all this time, I am still thrilled that my career is focused on helping people have fun. I plan to keep running the company and anticipate that sales will reach $7 million this year. So yes, I would rather keep creating social events that people remember!

http://www.zobmondo.com/

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