What a Dud!

Do you know how Milk Duds got their name? I do now, after reading an interesting article the other day about the history of eating popcorn in movie theaters. Back in the 1920s, when F. Hoffman & Company of Chicago came up with the idea of manufacturing a milk chocolate-covered caramel candy, the pieces were supposed to be perfectly round.

Have you ever seen a round Milk Dud? You haven’t—because the company found the candy impossible to produce in that form and considered the project a “dud.” But their employees liked the candy, and so did their families and friends. Soon the company realized it had a hit on its hands after all, and the candy flew off the shelves when it was introduced to the public.

So, what if Hoffman had abandoned the idea, steadfastly adhering to their original plan to produce perfectly round candies, despite the feedback they were receiving from employees and others? Well, nearly a century later, movie-goers, trick-or-treaters and scores of chocolate caramel lovers the world over would be deprived of the savory sweetness these tasty little goodies deliver.

The point is, sometimes as business owners, we come up with ideas for what we think would be great products or services, or we develop business plans that are supposed to be our roadmap for the next three to five years—and then we set out on a determined path to make the idea work or to follow the plan rigidly. Don’t get me wrong—focus is good, but blinders are not. Often when the original idea doesn’t work, we think it was a dud and we scrap it—or we waste more time and resources trying to make it work according to the original plan.

Sometimes, though, there’s dollars in those duds if we’d just listen to our customers, or if we’d just give ourselves permission to step back and look at things from a different angle. I, for one, plan to keep a box of Milk Duds on my desk from now on as a reminder that some of the best ideas come as a result of staying open to possibilities. Unless I get hungry and eat them before lunch.


About Smart Companies Thinking Bigger®

Kelly Scanlon is the owner and publisher of Thinking Bigger Business Media. She recently finished a term on the national board of directors of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and was the national chair from 2010-2011. An advocate for small business owners, Kelly sits on numerous boards and committees to advocate on behalf of small business owners. She has won several awards for her advocacy. Among them are the 2011 United Nations NGO Positive Peace Award on behalf of Kansas City area small business owners, the U.S. Small Business Administration's Region VII Women's Business Champion of the Year in 2009, and the Women in Business Advocate of the Year from the State of Kansas in 2006. In 2002, she won the SBA's Region VII Small Business Journalist of the Year Award (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas). Whatever your business stage—aspiring, startup, established, mature—Thinking Bigger Business Media has the resources you need to grow to the next level. We are a resource organization dedicated to providing the strategic, "how-to" information small business owners need to become more productive and more profitable. We also provide information that helps owners connect with resources within the business community that can help them grow. We deliver that information through a variety of media products and other channels easily accessible to business owners.
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