It’s a challenge to stay relevant in the entertainment industry—coin operated operations are no different. Company owners and managers agree that keeping track of trends, maintaining strong relationships with clients, and having an open mind to new ideas helps them to remain relevant and competitive.
Scott Winzinger, owner of Americoin Amusement in Evansville, Ind., says, “I own and operate my route on my own and have for the last 25 years. As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail,’ and so preparation and organization are key. I backup all my files and stay organized at all times. I also make sure that I’m doing repairs as quickly as possible so that I don’t stay behind.
“Because I’m my only employee, my overhead is low. It’s easy to oversee my route and to make adjustments to ensure that it’s always functioning at its best.”
Owner JC Soloman, of Ace Amusement Service, Inc. in West Palm Beach, Fla., says, “The most important element to running an organized office is to hire a really good secretary. We make sure that everything you need to do for each day is checked off by the end of the day so that when you come in in the morning, you can start to work without worrying about leftover work from the day before.
“We have a definite routine here. We’ll check messages, make sure broken games were fixed the night before by verifying work orders and tickets, and if they haven’t yet been serviced, we prioritize it for that day.”
Soloman says, “We have a checklist for everything and checklists for different people. The GM has his own checklist, for example, and I have mine. I make sure that everyone completed their assignments—and of course someone has to check the checker. It’s important to have a reliable checks and balances system so everything is covered. Our employees use a computer software program to keep organized. The app allows everyone, like those responsible for equipment repair, to make sure everything is taken care of.”
The most critical element to running an organized coin-operated route, says Solomon, is hiring good people. “You want people who can manage routes and anticipate issues. That’s the main thing besides having good customer service skills. You have to give great service; anyone can buy the games and put them out, but it’s the service—the repairs, fixing, and rotating—that’s key, otherwise the business doesn’t work in the long run.
“We like to hire guys and treat them as family so that we can keep them for a long time. We’ll train them well, and they stay with us because we’re fair. I can see something in people, when they’re younger, that tells me they’re a good fit for the business. I look for and develop their strengths and try to pull those strengths out more.”
Cody Anderson, owner of Plentywood, Mont.’s Sunrise Vending, agrees that a good manager is key to running an organized office. “You need someone who’s detail-oriented. You need to keep good, accurate books. And find a computer program that works for you, so you can track your business.”
He says, “We have a small route as far as gaming goes. We know all our owners personally, and it’s an easy sale—and easy to run an organized route—because our customers are our best friends; if they need something, we’re on it.
“Customer service is also critical. It’s becoming more cutthroat with larger companies moving in who can offer bigger percentages. But it takes longer to get someone in for repairs; I can get to anyone within my route within 30 minutes or fewer. Speed of service is huge up here,” he says. “I also use a program that tracks route operations and helps us keep track of parts and meters and other elements of the operations.”
Anderson recommends doing due diligence when seeking a manager. “The person you hire is the face of the company when you’re not around. Make sure that they’re respected around the community.”
The best tips for running an organized office, according to office and route manager and company bookkeeper Kristy Andrews, of Colonial Vending Co., in Greensboro, N.C., is to have an overarching goal and a good, solid game plan to accomplish the goal. “You want to employ solid scheduling methods that help to achieve your goals.”
To run a well-organized route, Andrews recommends, “Upgrading and refreshing locations so you can switch out equipment when necessary and know which machines need repairs. We also do on-site consultations with the owners to make sure we’re meeting their needs.”
She says, “We also invested in technology—an online system that keeps up with inventory, collections, and scheduling. It’s an app that’s accessible with the phones and compatible with the office system, which is very convenient.
“Our business is customer-based, so engaging people and delivering a good relationship is a key qualification of our managers. It’s a cash-based business, so you want to make sure there’s transparency and trust, honesty and fairness with the customers,” she says. “Since we’ve invested in technology, we need our managers to be tech-savvy. They should be personable and deadline-oriented. We’ll watch their interactions during the interview process to make sure they’re approachable, friendly, good with time management, and communicate well.”
Chris Arnold, owner of Arnold Amusement, LLC in Stilwell, Kan., says, “I do all my office work out of a home office. I run it pretty small because I’m a small operation, with about 40 accounts in the Kansas City area. What I’ve found most helpful and useful, especially with vendors and ordering products online, is using direct withdrawals. The further away I can get from using a credit card or check the better, whether it’s crane games, ordering parts, or getting stuffed animals. It took me a while to set it all up but once I did, my office work was cut to a minimum—besides the weekly banking and other recurring tasks.”
Arnold says, “The number one tip for running a successful route is keeping your accounts happy. You need to have that open dialog with bar and restaurant owners and really listen to them. I have accounts that will request equipment from which they won’t necessarily benefit and really, it all comes down to ROI (return on investment). That good relationship with the establishment owner helps a lot because you can usually talk them out of something they don’t necessarily need or won’t yield a high ROI for them or me.
“I also stress keeping new equipment,” Arnold says. “A lot of smaller operators will try to get by with scrimping on the dollar and not updating their equipment; but my operating expenses factor in keeping my equipment new and updated as possible. Having online options has helped me out—I run internet jukeboxes and that’s cut down on service costs tremendously because there aren’t any running parts. [Online golf game] Golden Tees doesn’t have games that aren’t current—so I keep everything updated; dart boards like Radical are connected to the internet and allow you to play anyone globally.
“Connectivity has changed my business a lot. My credit card machines have finally eclipsed cash receipts,” he says.
When it comes to hiring the right manager, Arnold says, “In my line of work, honesty is the most important thing I look for. I can tell pretty quickly when I’m bringing on someone new to work for me if they’re honest or not—it’s not even theft or stealing. They have to work well with others and have a good, solid work ethic. Customer service skills are also critical. When you’re talking to establishments and the owners or managers who run them, the manager has to be able to talk and relate to them in a way that doesn’t alienate or upset those decision makers. It is critical that my managers get along with our clients.”