Glad to have you here but remember, you could be spending your time more wisely. Family, friends, maybe even your job if you are really pushed for something to do. David also writes the Building Our Home Blog as well as the wildly popular Dave’s Mindscape

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Humourous Lessons in Business, Tales of a Dissatisfied Squid Salesman II

Another long one by David McCaskill as published in the (now defunct) Asian Entrepreneur April 2000.

For those of you who have been introduced to our fearless CEO Allen McCaskill in Tales of a Dissatisfied Squid Salesman, these pages will not only provide background on his meteoric rise as a captain of industry but also serve to guide you through some of the pitfalls of entrepreneurship.

Early Adopters 
Early adopters are an important market segment. They keep a company alive while the rest of the world hesitates wondering if a new product is a flash in the pan or here to stay. 
Everyone knows an early adopter. He is the guy that paid $250 for a hand held calculator, which dropped to $20 within a year. He really believes that they will revive the Betamax™ format, 'tho he bought one of the first laser disk movie players, and any day he'll be able to buy records for his quadraphonic hi-fi system. He has, however, given up on the notion that anyone will produce popular music on eight track tapes. Early adopters have their place as entrepreneurs as well. These people have vision, drive, talent, the ability to spot at trend early on, jump in and create a market of their own. A large bankroll doesn't hurt either. Allen is one such person. When Allen saw his first murder mystery board game he rightly concluded that this market was going to be big. People love board games such as that perennial favorite Monopoly™ and no I'm not talking about Microsoft™. 
They love intrigue, and the thought of bumping someone off such as a boss or relative doesn't upset them in the least. 
Allen came up with "The Suicide Mystery Game". Moving quickly, he found a company to produce the game with good quality die (no pun intended) cast metal pieces, vinyl covered game cards and playing board. The game was an instant success with teenagers, keeping them occupied for hours. The instructions were easy to understand, the game could be played by one or more players and pizza and burgers were easily wiped off of the vinyl playing surfaces. 
Sales of the board game were brisk and Allen, ever expansion minded, decided to release a version on CD to capture a share of the video game market.
After researching the gaming market segment, Allen realized that there was also a large market for "hints and secrets" books. 
It seems that teenagers not only liked the pretty pictures and sounds the games made but they also liked someone else to tell them how to cheat and win the game. 
Poised on the brink of success, Allen's fledgling company was plunged into bankruptcy within days of publishing the hints and secrets book "The Suicide Mystery Game Hint and Secret Book" subtitled "The Victim Did It".

Allen's reflections: Jumping on a developing trend is "OK" as long as you can do the proper market research. Had I known that my target market was so fickle I'd have waited until I'd racked up a poop load of sales before releasing the hints book. Also knowing the industry you are in is to your advantage. In the games industry, like show business and mini skirts, you should always leave them wanting more.

Timing: In the world of business, like a good joke, timing is everything. About the time some company started selling Pet Rocks , Allen realized that "some people will buy just about anything" if it was marketed properly. 
For instance in many households you'd have trouble getting the family to eat leftovers. But mix in rice or noodles, charge an outrageous price, give it an oriental name and Voila!…Chinese take away. Anyway, negotiations to secure a supply of rocks dragged on too long and by the time Allen was set to introduce his Trained Rocks© by Allen ( sit, stay, play dead and roll over with a little help from a friend) the fad was over. 
This put a stop to all the R&D on Trained Pebbles© for apartment dwellers and Trained Boulders © for Texans.

Allen's reflections: One of the advantages of small business is the ability to act or react quickly. Also, maybe it wasn't necessary to try to secure that large a supply of raw material. Check out the sections on cutting overhead.

On Being Resilient Allen was headed for rock bottom ( pun intended ) when that "rocks as pets" fad petered out. 
Never one to let adversity, or good advice, stand in his way, Allen marketed the stock as "Executive Gravel" for up-market estates and nearly sold out. Compared to the $19.95 per Trained Rock©, the $400 per tandem truck load was not what you'd call a bonanza. 
The company had almost broken even if you include the costs associated with the sheriff…uh, redistributing the quarry equipment back to the vendor.

Allen's reflections: In business you have to "Roll with the punches" so "When you are handed lemons…make lemonade". Who the heck makes up these sayings? In the Timing section I thought "He who hesitates is lost" was appropriate but after I bought my raw materials everyone changed their tune to "Look before you leap". And "Laugh and the whole world laughs with you". Try telling that to my brother Dave who invested in the Trained Rocks© venture. Seems Dave didn't find my telling him "At least we hadn't gone to the expense of actually hiring trainers for the rocks" in the least bit funny. Check out the section on financing and relatives.

Tales of a Dissatisfied Squid Salesman I

All products trademark of their respective companies.

Tales of a Dissatisfied Squid Salesman

This one is a bit long.
Squid On A StickTMCo.*

Bringing you squid the way you like it...cooked... and on a stick. Squid On A Sticktm - coated in a batter with the Captain's secret recipe of 13 herbs and spices. S.O.A.S.Co is now shipping Squid On A StickTM in two formats: - The handy 1Kg box , ready for retailing, and - the rather cumbersome 7 tonne shipping container, suitable for large seafood chains and places that force their customers to eat squid.

Don't forget to order your Squid Deep Fryertm ........................$ N/A Cdn.
Attention: Boycott Squid On A Stick. Join the Blue Ribbon Campaign to stop fish battering. brought to you by Computer Hackers For Fish.

Mission Statement To make a wad of money.
Mission Statement Rev. 2.01 To keep our heads above water, unlike the rest of the Canadian fishing industries, while employing a lot of Canadian squid jigging persons of no specific gender and being fairly environmentally responsible in so much as you can't get around a lot of those infernal government regulations.

The Environment Here at S.O.A.S.C we believe that, until someone comes up with a better alternative, the environment is necessary and we might as well protect it. With that in mind, we go out of our way to make sure that our 1Kg boxes are made out of cardboard that can be recycled and our 7 tonne shipping containers can be reused for... well more squid or a granny suite in your back yard. Even the ropes used in our squid nets is made of hemp, a natural plant which yields more fibre per acre than trees. Our squid fisher persons report that they are much happier with the return of hemp.

Our CEO speaks out in favour of preserving some of the "old growth forest" in Temagami. "We should preserve some of the old growth forest in Temagami 'cause when we do catch the giant squid were going to need one heck of a big stick." editors note: a physical speciman of a giant squid 55 feet long has been captured and fed to the dogs and in the 1930's a reliable witness reported a squid the length of his 175 foot ship.

Pricing Due to the great fluctuation in squid availability and therefore a large variance in cost, we base our price to you on the International Squid Exchange in St. John's NFLD. Our policy is to sell the freshest frozen squid possible and still make a wad of money. Also, to keep costs down, we buy only Canadian wheat for our batter, from the European Black Market. The EBM has met our needs with prices including shipping consistently lower than our own Canadian sources. Squid On A Stick Wholesale Prices for November 1996 1Kg retail box (minimum order 10,000) N/A.** 7 tonne shipping container minimum order 1 N/A.** **shipping & handling, tax, license, radio and white wall tires extra. American currency accepted at par. SOLD OUT

A History of the Company Squid On A StickTMCo. is like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes of our founder and CEO Allen's first company The Sushi Deep Fryer Co.* Here is a quote from Allen at his first meeting of creditors " Who knew people wanted to eat raw fish ".
Allen now has a new motto, "Maybe a little market research isn't such a bad idea!".
Our CEO was able to stave off the creditors with some last minute financing. Allen raised the cash to re-position The Sushi Deep Fryer as an ordinary deep fryer by mortgaging a building.
The deal almost fell through when the owner of the building returned from holidays. Fortunately the owner of the building, Jim, was a restaurateur with a problem. The restaurateur would become a silent partner and not press charges if Allen could solve the problem of squid being just too ugly to eat. Our silent partner Jim, had mistakenly ordered 20 tonnes of squid instead of shrimp for his specialty "Jimbo Shrimp" which sells like hotcakes, and the supplier would not take them back. Jim tried every thing. He dimmed the lights in the restaurant, he covered the squid in sauces, he offered free shrimp if the people would eat the squid, he tried to entice the kids to eat squid by dressing up in the Ronnie McSquidtm costume. It didn't work. Horrified people ran screaming from the restaurant. Kids too.
The refrigeration cost to keep the remaining 19.83 tonnes of squid from spoiling were putting Jim in the red. Allen offered to teach Jim how to mortgage or sell other people's properties but Jim being big on ethics decided they should concentrate on marketing the squid.
Allen began his market research. While in a local park doing community service ( of his own volition he contends ) he noticed that people will eat just about anything on a stick: lolly pops, ice cream, whistle dogs, candy floss, hors d'erves well you get the picture. Why not squid? It would have to be deep fried, necessitating the purchase of his newly developed Squid Deep Fryertm .
Ever safety minded, and prompted by some pending law suits, Allen took a cue from Pete over at a company that makes frozen flavoured water on a stick. Allen's original stick was round and the design lent itself to being twirled between the hands.

 (fig. 3)
taken from the prosecuting attorney's missing files.

Allen came up with a splatter guard, similar to the clear plastic face masks worn by hockey players, for customers to wear. His partner, who thought the patrons looked silly enough wearing those bibs with the lobsters on them, vetoed the idea.
Allen went to plan B, a flat stick which was unlikely to be twirled. A fly in the ointment ( or a bug in the batter so to speak ) Covering the squid with batter and deep frying, while effectively disguising them, created an unappetizing lump. The unappetizing part was one of the problems Jim had been trying to overcome. Allen came up with the idea of spreading out the legs before coating the squid and then flash freezing them in this splayed out position. When deep fried, the legs did not stick together and left one with food, on a stick, covered in a light crispy batter, that didn't remind one of it's revolting origin unlike un-battered squid on a stick. Allen and his silent partner have gone on to offer Squid On A Sticktm not only to restaurants and institutions but now to the general public through selected grocery chains.

The rest is soon to be history.

Humorous Business Lessons, Tales of a Dissatisfied Squid Salesman II