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 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
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