My boss, Pete Hoefling, is a slave driver. What makes it all the more remarkable is that the slaves whip themselves.
Let me give you a data point for comparison: Up until I worked for StarCityGames.com, I had never stayed up all night in my entire life. Oh, I’d had my partying days, but I need my rest — I’d sneak off somewhere and collapse for an hour, getting in a quick nap to refuel my hard-livin’-lifestyle needs, and then return to my dancing and flirting.
But staying up for twenty-four hours straight? I couldn’t manage to do that for my senior prom, for gosh’ sake. But since I began working for The Mighty SCG, I have pulled not one but two all-nighters.
Why do I do it? Why does StarCityGames.com p0wnnz0r me so?
It’s because of Pete.
I’d walk through fire for that man, and have. (I lost a good pair of sneakers doing it, too.) There are other factors involved, of course; I have a work ethic that would make Protestants weep with shame, and the Ferrett name is so intimately associated with SCG at this point that it’s in my best interests to keep it looking good. But during both of those all-nighters, if it was just me, I would have said, “Screw it, I’ll finish tomorrow,” and gone to bed.
But I didn’t want to let my boss down.
The question is, of course, what makes Pete so darned special? And why am I writing about him? A more cynical person might say that I’m angling for a raise — but the truth is, this week is “Lessons Learned,” and I learned something very important from Pete Hoefling, the guy who owns StarCityGames.com:
You can run a darned successful business based on the principle of fairness.
Let’s be honest for a moment and state flatly much of the Magic world is a hive of scum and villainy. I’m inevitably horrified by the forums when anyone discusses trading, since there are a lot of people who have no problems whatsoever in ripping kids off. “Caveat emptor,” they say, walking away with a Mox in exchange for a cool Vizzerdrix.
Some of these people own businesses.
I don’t mean to bash the competition, who are largely decent folk with good stores…. But I have heard horror stories from friends who ordered the cards they needed for States at ridiculously low prices, only to find them mysteriously back-ordered into oblivion.* There are bait-and-switch tactics, grading switches, and a whole bunch of other bad things that can happen when you trade or purchase Magic cards.
But when I first talked to Pete, he had a clear vision of StarCityGames.com: “We’re the good guys,” he said. And that’s his plan. He doesn’t rip people off in trades (even as he makes a healthy profit, of course), he doesn’t knowingly lie about anything, and when an error is made he does his best to make up for it.
I have never heard him badmouth anyone. If you write for us, and decide to go work for the competition? That’s cool. If you feel like coming back, we’re still here. Have you bought cards from another site? Hey, no guilt. Hope it worked out for you.
That whole “Being the good guy” has paid off more times than I can count. As the editor, we’re continually dealing with writers going to other sites — it’s a function of being in the business. If Site X hires one of our writers away, we say, “Good luck over there!” We mean it, too.
But what often happens is that the writer goes over to the other site, and it turns out that the grass is not greener. I don’t know precisely what happens at other sites, but more than once we’ve had people say, “Hey, we were writing for Site X, but can we come back?”
I know that’s all because Pete does his best to be the good guy. Our reputation is that we try to make everyone happy, including our writers, and largely I think we succeed at that. Whatever you need and he can reasonably provide — no matter whether you’re a customer, a writer, an editor, or a buyer — he’ll try to get it for you.
In turn, that buys my loyalty. When my Uncle Tommy died, Pete knew that Tommy was the closest man I had to a brother. Pete told me to take as much time off as I needed — which, in my time of grief, were some mighty reassuring words to hear.
I think of that whenever I’m on the raw end of some sixty-hour work jag, where I’m tired. But Pete comes through for me.
Why would I not come through for him?
Pete’s a businessman, but he isn’t only in it for the profit. He does things that aren’t necessarily short-term winners, and sometimes he gets the short end of a given business deal…. But he has faith in the long run, that fairness will pay off for him.
The miracle is, it does.
* – People have complained about our prices occasionally, but you may note that we’re still selling out of hot rares on a regular basis. It’s not that we’re keeping the prices artificially high — it’s that if we lower the price, we sell out and don’t have any left for anyone. Ben scours our 20,000 cards in a continual effort to find out what items might need their prices lowered, and he doesn’t find every one of them…. But there are an awful lot of price changes going on, and a lot of people buying cards that we don’t want to have none of. Honest truth.