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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!!