Here’s 5 things you should or should not do to help your chances of success.
DO TAKE THE RIGHT ADVICE
It’s Business-101! Before venturing into any endeavor it’s always a good idea to educate yourself as much as possible. The internet is great but it’s better to get the information right from the horse’s mouth. Find successfully operating facilities and prepare a list of questions to ask owners. Ensure that the places you are planning to visit have legitimate business practices. It’s a good idea to try to seek out the busiest facilities based on volume. This is where you are going to find information that is backed by experience.
Valuable information can be quickly shrouded by bad informationas everyone tries to get a piece of the Escape Room pie. Critics, customers, and false-experts will claim to know a formula for opening an escape room and package their knowledge in the form of consulting. Proceed with caution to anyone claiming to know more than any facility owner-operator. A food critic doesn’t know how to run a restaurant the same way a reviewer doesn’t necessarily see the inner-workings of operating a facility.
DO PLAY LOTS OF GAMES
We’re not just talking about room escape games but we recommend playing as many as you can as often as you can. When playing other escape rooms try taking note of elements of the entire facility’s operation in addition to gameplay. It’s a good idea to do this immediately after your experience while your memories are fresh. If you don’t already play a tons of table-top and video games it’s time to get started. Designing missions and building unique experiences isn’t just a matter of creativity; it requires a good understanding of game theory and mechanics. This understanding will help you create games that are fun and engaging while teaching you which elements can be frustrating for customers.
DO NOT CONTRACT EVERYTHING
Assembling a solid team from day one should be your primary goal. Find people with a wide array of skills that are truly committed to helping you design, build, and operate your facility. You’ll want to be able to build simple electrical circuits, props, and puzzles and have basic IT skills from day one. If you’re lacking in any of these you’re already behind successfully operating facilities. Other facilities already have the cash-flow to maintain a registrar of highly skilled staff who are developing the industry at a rapid rate. New generation escape rooms are tech heavy and continue to push the limits. Contracting out to get this experience means you’re at the whim of someone who isn’t vested in your business and it can quickly break the bank as you try to build custom projects.
If you’re the first facility on the block you may be able to get away with a low-tech simple operation, but if you’re looking at running a long-term successful facility this isn’t the right way to go.
DO NOT HAVE TOO MANY COOKS IN THE KITCHEN
Opening a new business can be expensive and frightening. The worst thing you can do as a visionary is face your fears with multiple investors. Although sharing the risks might help you get off the ground faster and let you sleep better at night, it’s a one way ticket to stymied growth and the inevitable failure of your business.
Room Escape facilities are highly cash cyclical endeavors, meaning in order to stay fresh and develop new ideas you’ll need to reinvest a lot of your cash flow in order to build bigger and better projects. This is a requirement in order to keep the ‘buzz’ about your business alive. If too many hands are taking from the pot it can be hard to reinvest. Not to mention, with diluted risk comes diluted responsibilities. When things need to get done in order to move forward, it can be detrimental to have too many voices or opinions in the mix.
DO QUIT YOUR DAY JOB
Unless you already own or operate recreational facilities, it’s a good idea to stop whatever you’re doing and devote 100% of your time in order to be successful. Successful facility owners can easily put in 70-80 hours a week during the early phases of their start-up. If you’re trying to run it along-side a full time job you facility will suffer. Being there to engage with customers, spot problems, and develop solutions to help your facility grow is the key to any successful business.
We’ve spoken with many failing facilities and we noticed that a lot of them refuse to leave other engagements out of fear of losing a stable income. Finding a good work-life balance is difficult enough, it’s a good idea not to have work-work-life balance as your shift in focus will be felt by the customer.