Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Planning A Future (part II)

I employ about a dozen retail Tobacconists, most of whom are Certified and the others are apprenticing. I provide health insurance for those who need it and I consider it my responsibility to help my Tobacconists develop as people and professionals. An organization is only as good as its people, so this is an easy investment to make. The best reward for this is that my turnover is 3 years, so I keep happy employees for a long time: that pays for itself! Additionally, I have had many employees move on in the industry and go to work for prestigious companies, so I sometimes feel like we are making a positive contribution to the industry. But, when Tobacconists ask me what I think about them opening up a retail store, I tell them they are CRAZY!!! Now let me qualify, 9 out of 10 people want to own their own business, but probably 1 out of 10 are capable. So I am partly trying to filter out 'talkers' from 'doers'. Running a normal business is hard enough; running a retail tobacco business can feel like guerrilla warfare.

But recently I felt a little guilty about my position on the matter. Isn't it two-faced to do all that I can to "Preserve Luxury Tobacco for Generations to Come", and then discourage talented individuals from becoming retail Tobacconists? Perhaps... I just want to make sure there is a bonafide future in it for them. There are many retail Tobacconists that are semi-retired with plenty of money in the bank that don't care if the industry succeeds or not, they just want to partake in their hobby. And there are plenty of wealthy hobbyists in the industry as well. In fact, most of the industry is made up of middle aged, affluent men. This is no surprise, but it does not bode well for our future. We need young blood. We need more passionate men and women in their 20s and 30s coming into the industry.

So on Saturday morning I am sitting in the shop, talking with a cigar salesman who I like and respect. I'm looking at him thinking "thank God for young guys like you coming into the industry". But danger lurks in the shadows. I have seen this before. Will he leave in six months to go sell HP printers or telecommunication services, or whatever? I have seen them leave us before. How do we keep young talent? How do we inject enough innovation and credibility back into this industry to preserve it for generations to come? If we can't keep our best and brightest, we will certainly fail.

There is far too much taxation and legislative uncertainty in our world to promise anyone a bright future. This must change. The industry must rally behind a plan to promote our acceptance and credibility in society. We must stabilize the hemorrhaging and strengthen our foundation while projecting our credibility. We must focus on getting young, innovative, passionate souls into this industry NOW!!! And work on giving them a future with hope and promise instead of fear and uncertainty.

I'm on it. Are you?

PS: remember, retail Tobacconist Certification is free.

No comments: