CEO Bill Hallan: Real-life lessons from Monopoly

I’ve been playing a lot of Monopoly with my kids the last few days – just our latest activity in this never-ending pandemic. My son Zachary, 7, is particularly obsessed and hopefully he’s learning a thing or two about what it’s like to be a business owner.

It’s been a while since I’ve played the game, and while I’m no expert, the key to winning the game can be summed up with the old adage “you’ve got to spend money to make money.” You need to buy properties, and then invest in houses and hotels at a level that’s slightly uncomfortable and risks potential bankruptcy. I play to win (this father shows no mercy), and I chuckled to myself when I overheard Zachary explain to my daughter Olivia, 10, that he lost a game because he was “over leveraged” after he mortgaged several properties.

The similarities between the game and the real world are evident as the difference between winning and losing can be about as thin as a knife’s edge. I’ve spoken with a lot of MRA members during the pandemic and I get the impression that’s how many retailers feel right now. Small business owners are used to taking calculated risks. They buy or lease property, invest in equipment and inventory, hire employees, and hope customers will show up and land on their space.

What’s changed is the element of control. The pandemic is like having a chance card on every other turn. Chance is what small business owners fear: They want to be in control of their own destiny. The pandemic has altered that dynamic. A business should have the opportunity to succeed on its own merits and not for reasons outside its control, like government shutdowns or burdensome restrictions.

Recently, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer remarked that we’re still in the early stages of the pandemic. It’s a sobering perspective as we’re six months in and the weather has already started to turn. While we wait for a vaccine and still have a ways to go, the team at Michigan Retailers Association is working everyday to help your business succeed on its own merits and reduce the element of chance. We’ll continue to advocate to keep retail open, especially as the industry has proven itself safe with virtually zero related outbreaks. We stand ready to answer all of your questions through our Ask Us First program and we’ve identified retail friendly candidates (Page 5) as the November election approaches. Our Buy Nearby celebration on October 2-4 encouraged Michiganders to keep their shopping dollars local. In short, we’re investing in you.

Even with the unknowns from a global pandemic, many certainties still exist: We don’t know what the next chance card will be, and we don’t get $200 for passing GO. We also know that retail plays a vibrant role in the vitality of our communities, and Michigan Retailers Association will be there for you as we collectively wait to land on free parking.