Phil Wrzesinski's Super Power
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I got my start in the toy industry riding on the Toy House float in the Jackson, MI Rose Parade at age 3. My first paying gig was when my grandfather paid me ten cents an hour in 1973 to put price tags on boxes at Toy House at the age of seven. Hey, that bought a lot of Bazooka Bubblegum back then. I started on the sales floor the day after my fourteenth birthday with work permit in hand. It was 1980, the year of the Simon game. My job that Christmas was to show off the handheld electronic games to customers. Could a teenage boy have more of a dream job than that? My full-time journey began April 30, 1993 when my dad hired me for a lot more money than grandpa offered. I worked right up to the day we closed Toy House on Christmas Eve 2016.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Know your market, especially the pricing. Often we would get people presenting toys with prices way out of line for the category or for what they had to offer. No matter how good the product, if there isn’t a healthy profit margin for both the manufacturer and the retailer, the toy won’t go far.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
My cousin and I used to gather all the neighborhood kids in his bedroom and choose our plastic guns for a three-block game of “War”. Try imagining that happening in today’s society.
What does your typical day look like?
Now that I have closed my store, become a single dad with full custodial duties, and switched careers to being a public speaker and author, my typical day includes a lot of writing, driving my sons around town, and doing household chores. I try to spend a few hours a day writing and a few hours a week farming for speaking opportunities.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked with juvenile delinquents for six months just prior to starting my full-time career at Toy House. It wasn’t the kids that were the problem. It wasn’t the job, either. We just had an incredibly dysfunctional team that made working conditions difficult. I came from a team-building background but wasn’t in a position to influence the team in that way. The lesson was a clear-cut example of the importance of team building to create a culture for success.
What inspires you?
The chance to help others. My core values are pretty simple – Have Fun, Help Others, Teach & Learn, and Nostalgia. When I can have fun helping others especially through teaching new skills that rocks my world. I cry at standing ovations because that means someone rocked someone else’s world.
What do you read every day, and why?
I read blogs every morning, especially Seth Godin. I wish Roy H. Williams would write more than just his Monday Morning Memo. I read non-fiction and fiction books at night before bed. I like to switch up between fiction and non-fiction just for variety.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I learned WordPress a few years ago. That helped me take control of and build my own website for Toy House and also my current site – www.PhilsForum.com. I love having the control to be able to chage things up at a moment’s notice and create the kind of website I want.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I can’t think of a day that goes by without laughing out loud. My boys and I love comedians, love funny stuff on the Internet, love making each other laugh. A day without laughter is a sad day indeed. Here is one really funny comment from a speaker I heard two days ago … “If a recipe requires that I roll down my car window, I’m in!”
Are you named after anyone?
My first name is my grandfather’s name, the founder of Toy House, former mayor of Jackson, Michigan Philip Conley. My middle name is Charles, my father’s name.
Do you have any kiddos?
I have two teenage boys. (Fun fact: Both boys have “Philip” as their middle name.)
Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which one(s)?
I play guitar and harmonica. Along with writing books I also write songs. I perform at least once a month in a local brew pub singing songs that make you laugh or sing along.
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
Attitude. I like positive, active people. If someone says, “Let’s do this. It sounds like fun.” I’m usually at the front of the line.
Do you have any special talents?
My super power is taking complex subjects and making them easier to understand. Years ago ASTRA asked me to write a book about the Financials of an independent retail toy store. That was funny to me because of all the aspects of retail I felt I knew the least about, it was Financials. They wanted to call the book Financials Made Easy. I told them that was impossible. We compromised with Financials You Can Understand.
This super power is why I launched my speaking career. I found out I have a talent for being able to teach you new and interesting perspectives on a variety of topics in fun and engaging ways. I try to keep that humor in my writing, too. I have now written books on Hiring (Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art), Financials (Financials You Can Understand – available exclusively through ASTRA), and my latest book on advertising (MOST ADS SUCK: But Yours Won’t) that I am currently running an Indiegogo Campaign to help fund the printing and marketing costs. The book should be on the market by late June.
I also teach a class for expectant dads at our local hospital. I turned that class into another book I published called Welcome to the Club, Daddy: All the Secrets About Becoming a Father (That No One is Telling You).
What are your hobbies?
I love to play golf. I love to swim. I love to canoe. I love to camp. I love to fish. I love to sing. I love to write. I love to play sports. I love to watch sports. I love to go to movies. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to help others. I love to have long, deep conversations with people about business, advertising, customer service and life in general. I love to ride rollercoasters. I love to cuddle with my dog. (PS all of these are true except one. Guess which one.)
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I made it through the first 50 years without growing up. Why start now?
I have a lot of irons in the fire. My Indiegogo campaign and the printing of my new book MOST ADS SUCK is my number one priority. I am also working on a contract to do more writing for the toy industry. I have a workshop on advertising that I am hosting in mid-June. I am looking for more speaking opportunities to share what I have learned in my lifetime of retail. I am helping start a non-profit organization around the phrase “Be More Kind”. I am attending workshops and reading articles and blogs to better learn the “speaking industry”. I am raising two wonderful boys, one who is about to head to Hong Kong for a study-abroad program and another who just returned from Academic Games National Championship with one 2nd place trophy and two 3rd place trophies.
The only thing left is for whoever is reading this interview to pick up the phone and hire me to speak at your next event.