Who are you, and what do you do?
Jason Benner, Co-Owner and general manager of the retail store Muse Comics & Games. I’ve been with the company since 2010 and became co-owner as of 2019. I’m responsible for EVERY aspect of the business. From ordering & invoicing, organizing, scheduling, marketing and everything a small business in a modern world faces day-to-day. We sell comic books, graphic novels, role playing games, board games, card games, miniatures, dice, hobby supplies, storage supplies, and pop culture novelties.
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
When I was in my 20’s I was working at a restaurant as the fry cook. The owner of the business on a particularly busy night noticed I was getting really worked up and upset because I couldn’t keep up with the orders coming into my part of the kitchen. He pulled me aside and asked me if getting upset about something I have zero control over was getting me anywhere. Did my anger of the situation make the situation better? Did my frustration get the work done faster? Does reveling in that moment and dwelling on it make me more frustrated or faster at the task at hand? Why stress out and dwell on things that you have ZERO control over? Roll with the punches, collect your thoughts, make a plan, put your head down and push through. This has been some of the best advice I’ve ever received. I’m much more able to analyse and adapt to work & life situations. Recognize, problem solve, initiate action and reflect.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.
Four months into my career with Muse Comics & Games I was responsible for hosting a Montana State Championship tournament for Magic the Gathering. My research showed the largest attended M.T.G. event in Montana to that point was 82 people. So I rented space, tables & chairs and hired judging staff to handle 90 people. On the day of the event we broke every record in the book and got 128 players! Needless to say I was WAY under prepared and to make things worse my printer broke down in the middle of the event. We started over an hour late and the event took much longer to run than it should have due to under staffing and technical issues. This was especially embarrassing for me early in my career and as a former boy scout. After that fateful day I researched how the biggest and best event coordinators around the world host and run their large M.T.G. tournaments. I adopted as much of their procedure and policy I could to ensure I would NEVER have a day like that again. To this day Muse Comics & Games has a sterling reputation for high-quality, well organized competitive tournaments and it’s all thanks to that one very ruff day.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
E-COMMERCE. Retail is a constantly evolving business. The future of retail is pretty clear and that path is online. The need for small business to keep up with these trends is the difference of profitability or barely making it. As the american frontier continues to populate the need for e-commerce will grow but in under populated areas like Missoula the demand for brick and mortar retail should increase. I see my business pushing forward on both fronts. Capitalizing on a burgeoning community and future buying trends.
What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Stay open until the we’hours of the morning…EVERYDAY. This is a common recommendation and request. However, market research and basic accounting shows that this practice increases overhead and the chance of unnecessary risks to customers and employee safety. Unless your operating a business based on food and/or libations this strategy rarely equates to higher profitability. I often refer to the fast food chains push to 24 hour operation in the mid 2000’s. Most of those franchises abandoned the policy within 2 years and only a few maintain it at select locations across the country.
In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?
I’ve learned to not always trust the distributor representatives and I’ve become much better at not letting them pressure me into ordering what they “want” me to order. I know my business better than anyone. Why let a rep. on commission tell me what’s best for my store?
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
Watchmen GN by Alan Moore. The ambiguity of social and moral standards of past, modern and future society is nicely wrapped in a clever “super hero” story. Through out the story we learn the pasts of each character and the author makes you empathize and understand why each character makes the choices they do, but these choices to some may seem immoral. The climax of the story leaves the reader questioning their own ethics and morality. Easily one of the best books of our modern times.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Embrace failure. Failure is how we learn. Failure is the catalyst to all progress. Fear failure and you will never reach your full potential. Learn from failure, evolve from it and watch your life flourish.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
“Be responsible with your irresponsibility.”–Jason Benner 😉