Ken DukeWritten by

Starting a Company? What’s Your Plan?

Business Trends| Views: 1481

Seven or eight months ago, an email was forwarded to me by a friend. It announced the launch of a new fishing rod company.

The announcement made some big claims. They warned that “Things are about to change in the fishing rod industry.” They alerted me that they are a “revolutionary fishing rod company” making “tournament-quality” rods without the “ridiculous price tag.” Finally, they “guaranteed” that theirs are “the best rods” I would “ever use.”

That’s bold talk, but I try to keep an open mind. After all, once upon a time no one had heard of Berkley or Humminbird, Daiwa or PRADCO. You gotta start somewhere, and this company was certainly aiming high.

So, I started looking for them. I asked around at the Pitman Creek Wholesale show in October. Nothing.

I checked at the Big Rock Sports Show in January. More nothing.

In March, I walked the floor at the Bassmaster Classic Expo, but there was no sign of them, despite the fact that the rod company was clearly targeting the bass market.

A couple of weeks ago, I looked for them at ICAST. As you’d expect by now, they were a “no show.”

I haven’t seen another email from these people since that first one was forwarded to me months ago. (That’s right, they somehow failed to include the editor of North America’s business-to-business fishing publication on their distribution list.) They haven’t even gone to the trouble of signing up to be in the FTR Buyer’s Guide … and that’s free!

Is the company a textbook example of hubris or just another tackle company without a meaningful plan? You don’t need David Copperfield to disappear if you work in the fishing industry. All you need is a bad marketing plan.

I’m hoping it’s just hubris—that they’re cocky and about to explode on the scene with rod designs we can only imagine. After all, the company can’t actually “disappear” until they’ve “appeared,” and this company has yet to even pop up on anyone’s radar.

For the company’s sake, I hope they have enough local business to keep the lights on, but to the fishing community at large, they don’t exist. Their website appears to be up and running, but they’re offering huge discounts on rods that might not be necessary if they were truly the best I’ve ever used … or if they knew how to market their inventory.

Of course, it didn’t have to be that way, and I wish such awkward starts were the exception in our industry rather than the norm. But that’s just wishful thinking.

A lot of folks trying to make a living in the fishing industry are anglers first and business people second. They’re in the industry because they love to fish and don’t realize that the best way to cut into your time on the water is to work in the fishing industry. Many of them have a great product but a lousy company.

And the ones who struggle or fail outright all seem to lack a meaningful plan of any kind.

“Let’s get this email out there to all our fishing buddies, then we’ll start cranking out the [insert tackle item here],” someone says. “Arnie, you take phone and web orders. Betty, you did such a great job on that email, you’re in charge of marketing. Charlie … we’ll find something for you, too, but for now just prepare for the avalanche of media that will want to tell our story!”

That’s not a plan. That’s a recipe for bankruptcy and divorce.

A plan means having the right people in the right positions, not simply having friends who want to meet Bill Dance and take selfies with Kevin VanDam.

A plan means never wondering about your next step. It means having it already mapped out.

A plan means having product when you need it and shipping when you say you’ll ship.

A plan means hoping for the best but bracing for the big challenges.

It’s not exclusive to our industry, of course, but I’m often troubled by start-ups that don’t do their due diligence, that don’t talk with others who have gone before them, that don’t consult with knowledgeable business people before they invest time, energy and money in a dream.

It’s a little like heading out on a strange body of water and expecting a big catch when you don’t even know what swims there. You’re just wishing for fish, but the stakes are so much higher.

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