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5 things Chuckles taught me about business and leadership.

You may not like every single piece of them, but we all know the lime, orange, cherry, lemon and licorice sugar-topped candy called Chuckles. What you probably have not thought about is all the lessons that we could learn from these sugar-sprinkled treats. Let me explain.

Chuckles have been around since 1921 and have since been bought and sold by numerous companies. However, several things ring true. The Chuckles brand has been a successful leader in the black and also a disappointing downer in the red. To translate this into life, there have definitely been some amazing days and also some very bad days for this fine brand. But in all of this, here are a few lessons for us to take away:

#1 Never ignore your current customers, your potential customers or the market.

In the 1980’s, guess what candies popped onto the scene? Gummy bears, gummy worms and fancy jelly beans. Was this a threat to Chuckles or just a fad? Chuckles bet on this as a fad, ignored the changing palette of its customers and also dismissed the competition and the market. Luckily, this almost fatal mistake didn’t end in their demise, but it could very well have.

Don’t believe me? Ask ToysRUs! They didn’t believe that toys would be bought and sold online and failed to also pay attention to the changing customer preferences. Consumers wanted to experience toys, not just purchase them.

Bottom line, pay attention to what is happening around you! Having blinders on today will wipe you out tomorrow!

#2 Stay humble and vigilant.

In 1970, Chuckles was #3 in jellied confections. By 1985, their sales were down 41%. This is definitely a lesson in humility. Stay humble! When you’re on top, you’re a target. When you’re not on top, you’re still a target! If the competition can take you down or take you out, they will. Stay vigilant, flexible and relevant.

#3 It’s easier to transform when you don’t have to, than to transition in an attempt to survive.

Inherently, transforming your business is very tough. As a result, it is often swept underneath the rug due to the potential disruption to normal business practices. In addition, the change management element alone is not for the faint at heart. Everyone says they want change. Nobody wants to change. And… absolutely no one wants to lead the change! So, where does this leave us? It leaves us knowing that calculated continuous change is necessary for survival.

If we don’t transform our businesses, our competition eats our lunch and we have no other choice but to transition or die. As a business owner or leader, you must recognize that forced transitions are riskier, costly and often unsuccessful since the world around us moves so quickly.

Continuous improvement that focuses on your customers’ experience, as well as, well-managed, well-funded and well-positioned projects will aid in keeping your business alive.

#4 Give your customers what they want. They will only give you grace for so long.

Back to my opening statement, there are 5 flavors in the original Chuckles package. Lime (yummy), Orange (fantastic), Cherry (to die for), Lemon (just right) and Licorice (uh…yeah…). Either you are one that loves licorice or you absolutely hate licorice. This often meant that many consumers of Chuckles only really liked 80% of its content. As the market grew and consumers were presented with other options, something had to give. This lead to packs of individual favorites and a variety of different sizes and flavors of this special treat. Lesson – listen to your customers and often act before they tell you exactly what to do!

#5 You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to be great!

Your customers matter! Your brand matters! Your employees matter! Your processes matter! Your relationships and partnerships matter! Transforming your business matters! Frankly, the core of all business is not rocket-science. Those that intently work on their business, versus just working in their business, will find themselves around for a very long time. They will definitely not look the same as they did 30 years ago, but there is a strong possibility that they will be in existence to tell the story of how they evolved.

In business today, you don’t have to be perfect (hence the licorice piece of candy in the package – lol), but you do have to commit to being great! Greatness, in itself, is a process of change management that you cannot hide from. Now, go forth, have a Chuckles and conquer the world!!

Have haters? You’re on to something…

Every great idea, and those who will implement them, will be faced with cynics, skeptics, doubters and critics. We have all heard those famous words, “That will never work” or “I don’t know why they are trying that?” This comes with the territory of change management, promoting a different way of thinking, challenging the norm and just being excellent in your field or craft.

So shoulders back, head up and charge forward into greatness! Haters have been around since the beginning of time. I know, it feels like they have recruited, organized and gained momentum over the years. However, as true leaders, we must see these things for what they are and never let their negative energies pull us into fear, self-doubt and/or negativity.

Here’s five quick things to consider when dealing with dream-crushers:

  1. Keep your dreams close to the vest until it’s time to spring it on them! Be careful how much you share about your intentions. This will add another layer of protection to those who will steal your idea, share your idea or begin the secret discrediting of your future plans.
  2. Let them fuel your focus! Discipline and focus will ensure that you don’t get off-course. You must believe in yourself and your work more than your haters disbelieve. If not, they win, and you lose 100% of the time! If you get weary, refuel by visualizing that your goal has already been achieved. The euphoric sense of winning will keep you going in the tough times!
  3. Distance yourself from negativity and find a tribe that will encourage you! Always remember that every negative and discouraging comment does not require a come back. Safeguard your sanity! Brush your shoulders off and align yourself with those who share positive thoughts and vibes. A tribe that will encourage you in good times and in bad times are worth their weight in gold.
  4. Let them be a ridiculous source of motivation for you! Always show your grit, not your sweat or discomfort! You are keenly aware of what you can do and what needs to be done. So go for it! Make it happen! Stay hydrated and motivated until you reach your final destination!
  5. Outsmart the naysayers and prove them wrong over and over again! They may talk louder than you or more than you, but that means nothing! A winner’s move is practiced, tested and calculated. When they go low, use what you know. There is a reason why you are on the cutting edge of something amazing. And here’s a little secret, your naysayers know it as well. That’s why they hate your idea, your passion, your purpose, your vision, your future opportunities and your potential!

Stay the course! Your haters are here to stay. Use them as a source of inspiration to take yourself, your teams and your organizations to the next level. You got this! I’ll be watching!

Kevin D. Jackson

The Positivity Guru –

Proper preparation before presentation

Too often in our lives we jump right to the glossy brochure pictures of the finished deck, the degree hanging on the wall or the millionaire business owner who seems to have it all. In this, we miss the very fundamental actions that have transpired to ensure this success.

What about grit, the determination, the resilience and the building of a strong foundation? Here’s my two cents. The preparation is not fun, it’s not easy, it hardly ever goes exactly as planned and quite frankly the journey is not exciting at all. A deck builder who transforms a blank slate into a beautiful outdoor living space must first plan, permit, dig and pour the foundation to support the structure for many years. Sustainable leadership is no different. Let me prove it to you!

Plan – Show me an effective leader who doesn’t operate based on plans. This could be a sales or expense budget, a business plan, succession plan, key performance indicators, etc. A true leader not only develops plans, but also plans to develop other leaders.

Permit – Above all else, give yourself permission to succeed! Regardless of how you define success, controlling your own “automatic negative thoughts” will prove to be vital to your “go-live strategy”. For it is often within our own minds that we limit our own potential.

Dig – If you don’t think you’ll have to dig, you are sadly mistaken. Let me get this very important point out of the way! Digging feels like you are heading in the wrong direction. When you are supposed to be going up, you find yourself having to go down. Also, if you want to go higher, you must often in this stage go much deeper. The majority of people are okay with planning and even getting the permit, but when it comes time to dig, potential leaders fall out – never to be seen again. If you are in the digging stage, please remember that you are digging for a reason. Stick with it, this phase is difficult but essential.

Pour – After the digging is over, you must fill up the holes with perseverance, drive, passion and purpose. If not, life happens, and the holes that you spent countless hours, months and years digging, will soon be filled again with the same dirt you put to the side. As we all know, time does not stand still. It rains, it pours and if we are not systematic with the steps we take, we will find ourselves needing to repeat previous steps.

Have a plan and work the plan. The foundation of your success as a leader is just as important as the deck builder’s foundation to their cover-photo masterpiece. One glossy life-style picture of success appears nice, but what happens years later when the strong winds come. Be patient, slow down, do it right, get better each day, perfect your craft and respect the journey.

Kevin Jackson