Lessons from Adventure Bay
Paw Patrol. Depending on how many young children you have, those two words likely elicited a “huh?” or a “not again!” (with eyeroll) reaction. My kids, along with pretty much every kid between the ages of 1 and 7, LOVE Paw Patrol. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a kid named Ryder who has six dogs that can talk, and have transforming dog houses. They go around the town of Adventure Bay doing all sorts of good deeds, because in Paw Patrol, adults are idiots who cannot do anything right. Fortunately, all the emergencies in Adventure Bay happen in slow motion - Ryder always has time to gather his pup team in his huge lookout tower and go through a slick Powerpoint presentation on the nature of the emergency and the rescue plan, before embarking on the day’s mission.
I used to wonder where Ryder’s parents were, because they never make an appearance on the show. But I have finally figured out that they must both be working 150 hours a week at multiple high-paying jobs to afford all the high-tech equipment that Ryder and the Paw Patrol uses. Therefore, they clearly do not have time to appear on screen.
One day, after losing yet another battle of asking the kids to watch something other than Paw Patrol, and pondering the meaning of my feeble existence, I started thinking about what Paw Patrol might teach us when buying or selling a business:
- The creators of Paw Patrol very clearly understand that their product is not a kid’s TV show. The show is simply a 22-minute advertisement for toys and merchandise. Similarly, sometimes a business is not quite what it seems at first glance. Make sure you clearly know the nature of what you are buying or selling. For example, quite often, a purchaser of a small business is buying a job as much as they are buying a business.
- If you watch Paw Patrol, you might notice that the characters and accessories seem modelled after the toys, and not the other way around. In the 1980s, when Transformers were brand new, the Megatron toy looked nothing like the cartoon character. I am sure many kids looked at the Megatron robot toy and wondered why it looked so terrible. Paw Patrol, on the other hand, does not make that mistake. All its toys are faithful recreations of what you see on the show. If you advertise something, make sure you deliver what you promise.
- Episodes of Paw Patrol follow a very familiar formula, every time. The episode starts with the pups at play. Somebody in Adventure Bay gets in trouble – a sinking ship, a lost chicken, or a mysterious landslide. They call Ryder for help, Ryder gathers his pups, picks a few to lead the rescue charge (almost always including Chase), and the pups save the day. It’s very methodic and systematic, with twists introduced to sell new toys (Robo Dog! The Paw Patroller! The Sea Patroller! The Sky Patroller!). In many ways, it’s similar to something I’ve written about before – a business that can systematize and document its key processes is far easier to sell.
Paw Patrol is actually not terrible as a kids’ show. I’d watch hours of it before something like Caillou, Barney, or the Teletubbies. It has some faults – for example, the girl pups are clearly under-represented, and they wear tired shades of pink and purple – but it’s reasonably harmless fun and tries to teach kids some vague lessons about teamwork.
Look closer though, and you’ll see a money printing machine tucked somewhere behind Ryder’s lookout. The last lesson is that you never know what might be successful. Someone came up with a crazy idea of show about a town whose emergency services consist of a half-dozen puppies, and that crazy idea has made some people very, very rich. Don’t ignore an idea just because it sounds crazy. Do your research, and engage the right people to help act on your decision. I think I might even know a “pup” for that.