Poorly Planned Business Can’t be Solved by Great Communications

My son wants to set up his own business. He’s five.

He’s got a lot of ideas, selling homemade stuffed animals, selling his artwork, selling wallets, or setting up a non-profit to rescue animals from drowning. Those are the ideas this week.

Since both his parents are in communications he’s picked up a few key concepts. Primarily that you need to promote your business.

I don’t have the heart to teach him the second important lesson of small business. If you aren’t selling what people need and if you don’t have a solid business plan, no amount of communications will rescue you.

Take his non-profit — RAFD.com. This stands for Rescue Animals From Drowning. This is a squad of superheroes (aka his friends) who, as promised, save animals from drowning. The lawn sign is above.

“How will you get customers?”

“When people’s animals are drowning their owners will call us.”

“Drowning happens quickly, how can you make it in time?”

“Mom, we’re superheroes. We can make it.”

“So you only make money if people have animals that are drowning, they call you, you rescue the animals.”

“What have you rescued so far?”

“We rescued a worm. It was drowning.”

“How much do you charge?”

“Eight million dollars.”

“That seems pretty steep. How can you be sure they will want to pay that?”

While it’s easy to chuckle at a child’s grandiose plans, it’s harder when you are working for an employer or client. People that succeed in the market think about their client first and plan their communications around that.

Communicators have to ask tough questions about the plans and viability — and sometimes we have to accept that there is nothing we can do to save you.

We can drive traffic to your store or online store, but unless what you are selling is what someone wants to buy — you won’t generate sales.

Sometimes communications can suggest changes to your business model. For my son’s business, I suggested selling drowning service agreements for a much lower monthly fee. This way people could have their pets covered by the RAFD squad and when those pets needed rescuing the squad could take action.

These are business decisions — not communication decisions — and you need to do the financial evaluation and really understand what your customers need and what you can deliver. Communications may help you gather proper market research and give you insight into who your customers are, but they can’t decide if it will work.

After realizing his dream of making eight million dollars by rescuing animals, my son has moved on. He’s selling wallets now. He has a flyer.