I once learned from a man who fired me that evaluating facts while understanding history and context was the key to making an accurate assessment and sound decisions. So I ask you to close your eyes for a moment and think back to January 2003. The landscape as we know it was far different. As a nation we were trying to spend our way out of the World Trade Center Attacks. Homes were flipping more frequently then Mitt Romney’s political stances. Our President encouraged us to keep shopping as a way to battle the enemy. E-commerce was a dirty experimental word dominated by Ebay. Social Media was just a twinkle in my eye, yet to be conceived. Personally I was out of work (laid off in June of 2001) and was responsible for earning income for my household. Being considerably more youthful at the time I was also sure that my command of the consumer market place was accurate. Essentially I knew everything and was ready to create, manufacture, distribute and sell my own product. To this point my wife and I had been prudent with our money as we saved for retirement and created a “college fund” for our young son. During a restless night of sleep in January 2003 it came to me, clear as a biblical dream. The world would soon see a collectible product that was revered by the three major religions. I had the answer and was on the fast track to the American dream. A Moses rubber ducky was what the American consumer wanted. In retrospect the lessons learned were valuable, my passion for business runs deep and most importantly I have evolved as person and entrepreneur. If given a Mulligan the three concepts I overlooked were:
A: Clearly articulating my vision
This is where a short 25 word business concept statement telling others and myself the purpose of my product or service would have alerted me that maybe this product was more of whimsical idea rather than a solid business proposal.
B: I did not do any market research or an Environmental Scan. Checking on competition, getting feed back from focus groups or even friends and family. This would have been a great opportunity for me to reach out to 10 acquaintances and get their feedback. An acquaintance or a more one who offers more objective instruction is a great way to see if your idea passes the “smell test”.
C: I did not build a recognizable and desirable brand. I must have just watched the movie Field of Dreams. “If you build it they will come” does not apply to Moses Ducks nor most business ideas. Consumers and potential buyers need a reason to buy your product. A Moses Duck had no practical purpose other than a collectible. When creating a product based on brand appeal your item needs support from influencers of popular culture.
As a post script to this story, many ducks remain sitting in my basement and serve to ground and humble me everyday. However wasn’t just yesterday when I was listent to Casey Casum’s top 40 and he said “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars”.
Until next time, be good and cultivate your community of friends.