Small-business owners, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? Each week, we focus on an entrepreneur who has lessons to share that we think will resonate with other small-business owners.
Aaron Schurman, CEO of videogame maker Phantom EFX, answers our questions:
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
Phantom EFX crafts each of its online games from the ground up. Each one has a unique feel that you might not get from comparable games that have borrowed heavily from their predecessors. Whether it’s casino slots, blackjack or craps, each game is designed independently of what we’ve done in the past. And while some of our competitors have been content with a presence on personal computers, we’ve developed mobile applications for the iPhone and BlackBerry devices, as well as games for Sony’s PlayStation 3, and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. We also offer an 3D online casino that features hotels and malls.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
Interacting with customers, learning about what they like and enhancing their experience based on their comments are incredibly rewarding.
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
Certainly, it’s the mental load. My job is endless and there is always an unfinished list to accomplish.
Name: Aaron Schurman
Business: Phantom EFX, a card and casino videogames publisher.
Industry: Interactive entertainment
Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Year founded: 1998
Number of employees: 31
Web address: www.phantomefx.com
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
When a storm swept through Idaho last year, our 80,000-square-foot office wound up underwater. Getting bogged down by 10 feet of water for two weeks during the worst economic period since the Great Depression really tested our business. The double whammy forced us to get lean and focus more on the business.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
In Phantom EFX’s games, no real money changes hands, but customers still like to win. In fact, they like to win so much, they used to complain about not winning more. So, I raised the payback on the virtual machines to return a greater percentage of the house take to customers. That created a new problem: All of a sudden, everyone had more money to gamble. That put Reel Deal VEGAS, our 3D online casino, in a tough spot. We had to design new game features to soak up that additional player money. If I had stuck to my original payout structure instead of being pressured by users into a rash decision, I would have saved development time, testing time and money.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
As your company grows, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of business. But it’s important to step back and take the time to understand the nuances of each of your products and listen to what people are saying about them.
SmartMoney.com provides news, information, and tools for business professionals and growing businesses. All content provided by SmartMoney is © 2009 SmartMoney®, a Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Hearst SM Partnership.