Friday, September 27, 2013

Getting Old!

I think I'm getting too old for this.  I just can't get excited about half the stuff players get excited about these days.  A few years ago it was Ninjas and pirates...didn't excite me.  Now it's all about Zombies....still not excited.  Sometimes it feels like the world is being run by pre-teens.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Change is in the Air

The last few posts I’ve had on here have been about 50 caliber paintball, because that is where my focus has been at the field.  That part of our business is still relatively small but it’s humming along and growing and I still predict it will be a much larger part of our business within about a year.  But I’m going to step back from that for a moment and talk about the general operations at a paintball field, regardless of caliber size.

In the past, I’ve mentioned that for a recreational paintball field, to create an environment that is enjoyable for the majority of participants, the ROF (Rate of Fire) should not be measured in bps (balls per second) but rather in balls per day or outing.  The thought being that if players are somehow restricted to how many paintballs they can shoot during their outing, an environment that is pleasing (fun) to the majority can be created and thereby a successful business model can be built around that.

I still believe that to be true, but at this point, I feel I need to modify that a bit.  I, like everyone else has opinions and I usually believe my opinion to be the right one (otherwise why have it?), but I have always prided myself in being a person that will listen to others opinions and be able to change or modify my opinions if necessary.  In other words, I try to be open-minded and not too stubborn.  I still believe that an environment needs to be created at recreational fields (especially those catering to a lot of new players – which most fields need to do) that limits the number of paintballs being shot rather than just limiting the bps.  But the formula  for ROFshould be modified from balls shot per day or outing to balls shot per time spent as a live player on the field.  That measurement would most likely be best served in balls per live minute on the field (I’ll abbreviate that as bplm – balls per live minute).

I believe the model we have at our field is a pretty good one in that regard, as far as creating an environment where the majority of participants are going to have fun.  We are open for 7 hours on Saturdays and Sundays and the average player stays approximately 5-6 hours including our lunch break.   We usually play 12-14 fifteen minute games during that time span with breaks between each game.  It’s a fairly leisurely day for our customers, probably more leisurely than found at most paintball fields.  Most of the games are not resurrection games, meaning that when shot, the player leaves the field so in reality, players are probably only active (live) players for about 60 minutes of that time.  So if our customers shoot 500 paintballs during their stay, their balls per live minute would be 500 divided by 60 or 8.3 bplm.

Our main competitor used to run his business in much the same fashion.  That is where my partner and I played most of our paintball before we started our field, so it was only natural for us to use what we were used to in our own business model.  He has however in the last few years changed his business model, probably because he felt he couldn’t compete against us well enough with the same business model.  He has chosen to shorten the overall stay of his customers and have more resurrection games, which keeps the players “live” longer.  He also dropped the price of his paintballs to about 60% of what he was charging before and what we still charge.  I don’t know exactly, but I am going to guess that his customers are probably live players on the field for approximately 90 minutes during their stay.  His entrance fees are slightly higher than ours, but with his paintball prices being lower and knowing that the average player will spend approximately the same amount of dollars regardless of price of paintballs, it wouldn’t surprise me if his average customer shoots closer to 750 paintballs.  These are just best estimates, but probably not that far off.  Using those figures, his players are shooting 750 paintballs in 90 minutes of active or live play or 8.3 bplm.  Both our field and our competitor field’s numbers are estimates, so chances are it’s not exactly equal, but even if estimates are off a little, both business models are probably producing similar environments on the field.

He has lower markup on his paintballs, but with slightly higher entry and reduced cost in labour (less open hours) his profit/player is probably not all that much different.  My gut feeling tells me it’s probably a little less, but his change in business model has created an increase in business for him, so he probably has more profit than before the change when he had fewer customers (he’s also made other changes to his facility that would be viewed as positive from many of his customer’s standpoint).

His business model and our business model are very similar in the type of environment they create, therefore we draw from basically the same customer pool.  I’ve always said there are only so many people that will play paintball, that number only changing depending on what is offered (intensity wise).  The change in overall cost, unless drastic, is not going to significantly change the numbers of players willing/wanting to play.  His increase in business has therefore affected us.  Those players have to come from somewhere and the pie, although it has grown a little bit due to other positive changes for the customer, has not grown all that much, so that means we have lost some market share.

Being open minded, I have to admit that there are some perceived advantages his business model has from the customer’s point of view, mostly having to do with time.  Time in our modern society is very important to people.  People who come to our field may feel they are getting value because for a smaller fee, they can stay longer.  However, at our competitor’s field, although players are there for a shorter time period, they are actually active or live players on the field for a longer time.  Therefore they are playing more paintball, in a similar environment.  Needing to be at the field for a shorter time period while actually playing more paintball is a positive for many people.
Industries evolve.  Paintball has definitely evolved a lot over the years.  Businesses have changed and have needed to change to survive.  When a business sees a competitor doing something that works, it’s only natural for that business to think about adopting some of those changes.  I’ve seen this coming for a while but have resisted the move because I have a feeling it will result in less profit for everyone concerned.  Once we implement changes that mimic more closely what our competitor is doing, I have no doubt that we will regain the market share that we have lost.  Our competitor will of course lose some market share.  It’s inevitable and regrettable.  I wish he could keep all his customers and we could get new customers from elsewhere, but that’s unfortunately not the way it works.  The pie is only so big.

With this post I’ve obviously given our competitor some inside information, but there really isn’t all that much he can do with it and he would quickly catch on to any changes we make anyway.  We’ll try to differentiate ourselves obviously a little as I am sure he will.  But change is acomin’.  We feel there is no choice.