Richard Early: WPN Premium Is All About the Process
Richard Early is the owner of Paradox Comics-N-Cards, a WPN Premium location in Fargo, North Dakota.
WPN Premium is about high standards. It’s about high expectations. It’s about hard work. It’s about looking your operation in the mirror and realizing what to do about it. It's a state of mind, a way of doing things. The label isn't what matters—it’s all about the process.
When Premium kicked off this past March, everyone had about three months to get in gear before the program came into effect in July. Soon we applied, and I understood why WPN Premium existed. It existed to challenge us, and every single WPN member.
I knew that getting Premium was never the goal. Building the best shop I could was what mattered.
Paradox opened in 1993 and in no time flat we were selling Magic.
Our first play table was literally from someone’s kitchen. They donated it to the shop to inspire us to start letting people come play cards. That’s totally commonplace today, but back then it was kind of mind-bending to think people would just come hang out at our retail shop.
It’s fair to say we quickly became the benchmark for the Fargo/Moorhead/Red River Valley community. I built friends, family, and lifelong business partners. I was a destination for casual and competitive play.
But all that was just being in the right place at the right time—it was the players of the area who made this work. I could design whatever I wanted and run whatever I wanted but if no one took advantage, it wouldn’t matter. I am incredibly grateful and honored to be just a part of what’s gone on here.
So, plain and simple, I wanted WPN Premium to reward those players and fans for who they are and the hobby they loved.
My manager and I printed out our first to-do list on the day word went out about the new WPN.
Now, you would think that the next step would be to hit the ground running. That’s actually not what happened.
Honestly, we were struck by the WPN Premium Quality Checklist and all the things we would need to do. There were several things on it we weren’t sure if we could do, let alone how to do them. (And at least one we weren’t sure if we wanted to do.)
Eventually, I was contacted by Wizards and started a conversation about how to move forward. It turned out that they had already scoped out our shop with a secret shopper in anticipation of our application. Hey, that’s awesome. We’re on the radar.
We got truly inspired. Like epically inspired. The old "don’t tell me what I can’t do" bit, basically. So in about two weeks time, we repainted our event center, brought in new garbage cans, new table numbers, trained our staff based on the list, and ultimately filmed a walkthrough video.
We got brand new staff shirts, lanyards, and new signage. We’ve got posted sales policies, posted prize policies, clear conduct policies, and a dozen other things. Some of that existed, some of it didn’t. But talk about raising the standards.
Our staff responded like true champions. Everyone was excited to learn everything that was expected of them. They learned to greet customers in a certain way, to be prepared at all times to match players to products, to teach new players how to play, and to be experts at our upcoming events.
Again, talk about raising standards.
At the end of the day, I believe Paradox was 80% of where it needed to be.
Are we perfect? Oh no no no. I laid awake at night during the secret shopper period. But what happened was, the process raised our standards.
Through the WPN Premium process, we had to look at everything. We had to consider how we presented information, what customers were seeing when they were here. I realized quickly that no matter what your store is like today, there isn't an owner on the planet who couldn't benefit from this.
For the first time I was able to clarify my goals and match them with my business. I want to impact people’s lives, I want people to know it’s okay to be themselves, and I want them to be the best they can be. Aiming for Premium gave me a chance to show that in how I conducted my business.
I can't control the results. But I know I have the best store I’ve ever had, and a new commitment to Magic.
An unabridged version of this article originally appeared on Richard's blog, Always Early.
The WPN Premium process is available to all WPN Members. Find more information, including how to apply for WPN Premium, here.