Pic of the day: Windows shopping. Another reason why you probably don't want to run a business from your home...
Sims2 OFB: Day 2
Have you dreamed about working out of your home? Not having to commute each day. And more than that: Being your own boss, perhaps even bossing over a few others. Now you can, at least in the virtual world of The Sims 2, with the expansion pack Open for Business. (See yesterday.) The cheapest way to start your own business is from a corner of your own home. I suppose you could even do it out on the lawn.
To start a business, you need a counter and a cash register. For most goods you should also have shelves. There are special display shelves, don't use the old shelves that can be used instead of a kitchen counter. And of course you need goods to fill those shelves. You can buy them wholesale at reduced prices, or in other cases make them yourself. There are benches for making toys, for making robots, and for binding flowers. You can also make cakes (though you need special shelves for that, coolers). The nice thing about cakes is that you can make them in your own kitchen with no extra equipment until you get them to the shelves.
There are also other types of business, like a cafeteria or a club or a makeover salon. In these you don't sell goods as such. In the club you install a ticket machine that charges your visitors for just staying, so you better make it worth it. I suppose a gym would also work that way. In the makeover salon you have special chairs which charge the customers with each use – as well as making them either better or worse looking. A failure can be quite devastating, but luckily it is reversible. If you can convince them to try again, that is!
Before the grand opening you have to call (or use the computer) to register your own business. There should be a "business" menu choice. There is also a "property" menu choice, but that's for buying a business outside your home. More about that later, if at all. Once you are registered, you get a new business tool set in the upper right corner of the screen. You get small tool tips when you put your mouse over each icon, but you will need to experiment a little to find out what they do. Or you could fork out for the Prima strategy guide, I guess. I am not going to go into such detail here. But be sure to test out the price tag icon, it is very important right from the start. You have to flag the goods as sellable before you can sell them, otherwise they will be just decorations. Finally, you have to get an open/closed sign. Strangely enough this is not in the business menus, but is bought from decorations in the ordinary buy menu.
This expansion pack has a new feature: All doors are lockable. They can be set to allow one of four groups of people: The current Sim only, the household, the household and employees, and everyone (unlocked). I did not think more about this when I first started my little robot shop, and as a result the customers spent most of the time in my kitchen and living room, eating my food for free and then complaining bitterly about the dirty dishes they had dirtied themselves. Customer satisfaction went down because of the dishes, but did not go up from the free food. Not recommended. Much like in real life, it is a good idea to not mix business and private life too much. The doors will help with this, although you may need to unlock them later if you want to have guests. (And yes, the guests complain about the dishes too. And empty coffee cups. And the presence of their personal enemies on you property.)
If you think opening a home business is a great way to augment your weak finances, think again. Just as in real life, you must expect to run at a loss for quite a while. Buying the goods and shelves and workbenches is only the beginning. When you start, you have no retail skills. Even if your charisma is high, you just don't know how to deal with customers. (But you will learn it faster than if you had low charisma.) Even if your mechanical skills are high, you will produce quite a few faulty goods at first, until your specific crafting skills go up. (But again, having a high base skill helps you improve faster.) Even manning a cash register is slow at first. All these things make a negative impression on your customers, and they are loath to pay full price for your goods. You will have to sell at a loss until you gain a reputation. But along the way, your skills gradually rise as you use them. Talk to enough people, and you gain sales skills. The same goes for other business activities, even restocking.
Oh yes, restocking. This is easy if you are simply reselling ordinary items. But if you make your own toys or robots or flowers or cakes ... how do you restock them? From your inventory. You have to make sure to put these items in the backpack of the business owner. (Not other people in the family, even if these can help make them.) Luckily if you choose the "make many" option, the things will go automatically into the right inventory if the owner is on the lot.
If you are greedy or if the service is found lacking, you will get less sales. But it could be worse. It may well become worse, if you fail to spot the one customer discreetly taking notes. This is a reviewer, and if you fail to help them, word will get out in earnest about what a lousy shopkeeper you are. Your customer loyalty will plummet and it will take that much longer time with basement bargain prices before you win them back. This is one reason why you really shouldn't open the shop if you are alone with a toddler in the house.
Luckily it is possible to hire employees, and in fact you will probably get a want to hire your friends. This is not necessarily the best way to go. They may be your friends, but they may not have the best skills. And they too have to work their way up by practice. Some of them may just not be the right type to work in retail, and you may have to fire them. Don't do that unless they are slacking, though. Being slow in whatever they do is normal for a new employee. As they get more experience, they will get better. But they will also know it, and start to expect better pay. Check their pay from time to time. You will see whether they are overpaid or underpaid, so at least you don't need to guess and try your way. Also be sure to look at the color of the employee sphere over their head. If you run them into the red, you better give them some hours off, or they will call in sick or even quit on you. They are not robots after all. Well, unless they are robots... this expansion has sentient robots. But that is a whole chapter in itself. Not now.
Sooner or later, if you sell at low prices and offer at least some service, you will gain a level. Yes, it is almost like a role playing game! And with level up, you get a point to spend on some special benefit. Lower wholesale prices may be a good alternative if you are just a reseller, but if you have several employees you may want to improve your motivational skills. Or you may opt for networking, which gives you a bonus to all relationships – even outside the shop – and can even instantly make acquaintances out of all the friends of someone you meet. The further you advance up this road, the more popular you will be with people you have not even met. If you happen to be a popularity Sim, this will make it much easier to reach your goals. Yet another possible reward is some semi-psychic sales skills which lets you read the customers better. Or alternatively you could take it all out in cash. For each time you level up, you get to choose from one of the paths, but you can only advance to a higher reward if you have the earlier rewards of the same type.
In conclusion: Don't make a new Sim and start a business from home right out of high school or even college. (I don't recommend doing that in real life either, by the way.) You should spend many years building your skills and putting aside money. Alternatively a second generation Sim might want to try, using skills acquired through childhood, teen years and college, and dad's money. Even then it may take its sweet time before you run a surplus, if ever. You need to start selling cheap, until your business skills (and your employees' business skills) allow you to reap the rewards. And then you die from old age. Still, it is great fun. Recommended if you want something more challenging than getting a diploma or a date.
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.