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April 27, 2019

How the McVikers cashed in on Change

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Sometimes the best ideas come when change is thrust upon us. No-one likes change, especially in the corporate world. But change brings with it opportunity. If you have the right mindset for it and take action. It’s change management on a very practical level.

No matter how hard you look sometimes the best and most profitable ideas have a habit of revealing themselves in the strangest of places and the strangest of ways. Usually when things change around us. We just need to be open enough, receptive enough and clever enough to see them when they arise.

When change management is thrust upon us

Take one evening in the dining room of the McViker family for example. The McViker’s owned a small business called Kuto Chemicals, which back in the 1950’s was in a tad of bother. They made a wonderfully ingenious product, a soft, clay-ish compound, which you would roll along dirty wallpaper and all the grime and dust would stick to it. Clever really and in the decades leading up to our infamous dinner date it proved a very successful product because it filled a gap – people wanted cleaner, less grimy walls. And because they were prepared to pay, it was also a good business model as well.

But the tad of bother occurred when the wallpaper industry was in turmoil and in decline because fashion trends meant more people were using paint. Fewer wallpaper sales meant less need, desire and as a result fewer sales for ‘Magic Wallpaper Cleaner’. The gap in the market the McVikers were filling was starting to disappear along with their fortunes.

Change creates opportunities

Enter a kindergarten teacher named Kay Zufall, a friend of the McVikers who had a completely different problem. As a teacher of toddlers, she was sick and tired of how messy the modelling clay was that kids used. If too wet the stuff would never hold its shape, and if too dry it became brittle and just crumbled under the pressure of a two year old’s hands. Either way, there were tears.

So back to dinner, legend has it that Kay mentioned her frustration to her good friends the McVikers and what followed was a conversation leading to one of the McVikers saying something like ‘try this’ and then handed Kay Zufall some a tub of ‘Magic Wallpaper Cleaner’.

It worked like a charm. Not too hard, not too soft, and held it’s shape. Through serendipity, a new gap appeared and ‘PlayDoh’ was born.

Fortunately for us, the tragic demise of ‘Magic Wallpaper resulted in the same product becoming an instant hit in a different market with a different application. It filled a new gap

Thankfully the McVikers were smart enough to accept change and run with it. Imagine if they were so narrow focused, so set on resolving the wallpaper issue that they had missed it. Children all over the planet would never have grown up knowing the joys of ‘Play Doh’, and parents all over the world would never have spent endless hours pulling the stuff out of carpet.

When speaking about change this story frequently gets a mention.

So how much money did the McVikers make? From the initial idea in the mid 1950’s Joe McViker sold Play Doh in 1965 for $3milllion. That’s about $22million in today’s money. Not bad for one idea over decade.

Related articles include ‘Change happens in increments‘. Also
Change Management Requires Ownership, not Buy-in.

Find out more about how Nigel can help your leaders and teams through his change management presentations, executive coaching or other keynotes.