Buying A Bouncy Business

Written by: Brady Drake

Local Physician Steve Shaffer just bought Games Galore!

Eight years of schooling, multiple years of residency, Investments in real estate and a family would be enough for most people, but not Steve Shaffer.

Shaffer, who is currently a Hospital Medicines Specialist at Essentia Health in Detroit Lakes, MN, is entering a new chapter as the owner of Games Galore. However, a lot of the book has already been written.

Becoming A Doctor

Coming out of high school, Shaffer didn’t know what he wanted to do, but one thing was clear, he was built to do something. Shaffer was one of the top graduates in his class in Huntington, WV and he did very well on the ACT. Because of those two factors, Shaffer got an offer from Marshall University that included a full ride plus a stipend and books. However, his parents were very religious and wanted him to go a different route. Despite their wishes, Shaffer was set to attend the home of Thundering Herd… until he crashed his car.

“I wasn’t hurt real bad or anything, but it kind of shook my confidence as far as what I was doing at the time. Plus I was broke,” Shaffer said.

So, Shaffer followed his parent’s advice and headed to Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC.

“Our agreement was that I would go for a year and if I didn’t like it, I would transfer out, but I didn’t,” Shaffer said. “I really liked their science program and I really liked… microbiology. I even thought I would do microbiology research for a while, but I realized I needed to be around people. The only problem was that the school was not accredited. Even if I wanted to transfer, none of my credits would go with me.”

Even though the school was not accredited, Shaffer managed to get into medical school at Marshall University.

“I just knew I needed to crush the MCAT. I had to leave no doubt that someone’s gonna take me,” Shaffer said. “I did well on the test and enrolled at Marshall through their early entrance program.”

To pay for his medical schooling, Shaffer joined the Air Force, which meant that he would complete his medical residency with the military after graduation and would also need to serve in the Air Force for a couple of years. But before all of that, he would have to navigate another daunting task, fatherhood.

“My now ex-wife got pregnant with our oldest in the second year of medical school,” Shaffer said. “She was on birth control and is a super responsible lady, she just got pregnant and we just cried and cried. But then, we just got after it. And it worked, I got through medical school. And then we had another kid during that transition phase into my residency.”

All in all, Shaffer had three children with his ex-wife, and he wouldn’t trade the experience of being a father for anything. However, that doesn’t mean that the journey of being a parent in your early 20s is easy. Neither is being an entrepreneur in the military, according to Shaffer.

“In my opinion, the military is a terrible route for an entrepreneur,” Shaffer said. “I’m not saying this is the case for every entrepreneur, but when you constantly sit there and think, ‘I think I have a better way to do this,’ the military is not a great place for you. So, I struggled with that and got through, but at the same time that things were going bad with the military, things were falling apart in my marriage. It was a bad spot in life.”

However, as most people who have been down and out know, it can get better. And it did for Shaffer, who found himself making his next professional stop at a clinic on the White Earth Indian Reservation which is about 65 miles from the Fargo-Moorhead area, giving him his first extended taste of the region.

“I had a great time there,” Shaffer said. “The people in the community were great. I loved it the two years I worked there. After I was done with that, I began moonlighting as a hospitalist for a center in Detroit Lakes and have now been with Essentia for about five years.”

Becoming An Entrepreneur

Shaffer’s journey to entrepreneurship all began with a book.

“I read ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ coming out of high school and that really stuck with me,” Shaffer said. “So, when my ex-wife got pregnant during my second year of medical school, I knew we needed a bigger space, so I bought my first triplex. We lived in the big unit and rented the other two units out to classmates so we had our mortgage paid for. That really just turned a lot on in my head and I realized that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

And so far, he is following through on what he wanted to do. “I sold that property after I graduated,” Shaffer said. “I did my residency in St. Louis and we bought a foreclosure house there and did a live and flip, and I’ve repeated that a bunch of times since then.”

Shaffer ended up flipping enough properties and purchasing enough real estate that he eventually began hiring team members who have truly become family over the years. “It has always felt, to me, like we are working together rather than them working for me.”

The Team

Sterling Morin

“Sterling, my right hand man and the first real hire on the real estate side is a wizard. He worked as a pipefitter, sold cars for Corwin, and I met him at a ‘get rich quick’ real estate seminar where I showed up to sit in the back and see if I could find a few young, hungry fellas to help me out instead of forking all the money they didn’t have to some guru for a class they weren’t going to use. Sterling was the only one who followed up and the rest is history. He’s now doing MBA level work at Games Galore and absolutely crushing it. If anyone calls in, is booking a large event or has any problems, they’re likely dealing with Sterling.

Alexander “Xander” Grohman

“Xander was my next hire. He is an excellent finish carpenter and really put the real estate business on his back and has done an excellent job. The Games Galore transition definitely cramped his style a bit as a carpenter, but he’s stepped up time and time again to help us as we continue to work on perfecting the staffing with Games Galore and he still is doing a lot of renovation for us on the real estate side.”

Josh Hoffer

“Josh is the only employee that was left over from the previous Games Galore regime and despite all the other great things we have going for us, it is hard to conceive of how we could have executed this last summer without Josh in the fold. He’s pretty unflappable in what can be a fairly high pressure business and if he puts his name on something, it just gets done.”

Trevor Sott

“Trevor, the third amigo from the real estate team, grew up with another one of our employees, Rigo Navarro. They live together, and have this symbiotic relationship beyond brotherhood. They can take whole, large events off the board and just execute together without us hearing a word. Customers love them and they both are wonderful with the kids at the events. Trevor does have a passion for destroying equipment though and never found a truck or trailer he couldn’t run into something.”

Buying A Bouncy Business

Shaffer has wanted to get involved with small business acquisition for some time now. He has looked at various companies, including a plumbing company. However, his purchase of Games Galore in 2022 is inarguably more fun.

“I love the look kids get when they walk into a space we have set up, like the Fight the Frost in the FargoDome,” Shaffer said. “I have actually seen kids being rolled in their strollers, watching a show on their parent’s iPad, and when they see what’s around them, they just get these wide eyes and chuck the iPad to the side. That’s pretty special.”

However, perhaps unsurprisingly, the experience of running a business that creates child dreamlands isn’t all fun and games. It is a business after all, a seven figure business doing business in over six states.

“It has been a journey owning this business. You don’t just buy it, flip the switch and have everything lined up for you. The previous owner was really an owner operator. It was mostly a one-man show. So, you can’t just hire someone and stick them in that spot. I’ve had to be very heavily involved. Thankfully, he let us shadow him for a while before he completely left, but when you are buying a business, you really don’t know what you don’t know.”

Some of the things Shaffer didn’t know about include the extreme variance in red tape when working with one venue to the next, the amount of time he would have to devote to the business and the general public not realizing the difference between an outlet and a circuit.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the phone with someone trying to figure out how we are going to set things up at their venue and they don’t know the difference,” Shaffer said. “Which is a big deal when we are setting up this many things that run off electricity.”

Despite the challenges, Shaffer has maintained that running the business has been a good experience.

“I’ve been able to help my team that was working on real estate with me grow,” Shaffer said. “That is one of my favorite things about this. People who have worked for me have been able to buy their first homes and I’ve been able to help them really get involved with real estate themselves. It feels really good to be able to change their lives. We have a real motley crew and we have a lot of fun together. We have taken trips to Miami and places like that and I’m really looking forward to bringing them all to Orlando this year for our big industry trade show. But being able to help them develop is really my favorite part.”

And he is also trying to pass that on to his now four children (Shaffer just had a baby with his current wife this past year).

“I wanted to buy a business where they could materially participate in the process,” Shaffer said. “That was the primary driver for this business. I want them to have exposure to the entrepreneurial side of things. That’s so important to me. I don’t want to force it down their throat. They don’t have to choose it, but I want them to see it.”

And at the rate he is going now, Shaffer’s children are sure to see plenty more entrepreneurial efforts.

It has been a journey owning this business. You don’t just buy it, flip the switch and have everything lined up for you.”

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.