ABC Kids is a fixture in our house. There are no ads, and it’s generally positive and educational. As a time-poor freelancer, it’s also taught me some unlikely business lessons.
Recently I was in a video chat with three business buddies. Seeing ABC Kids was on over my shoulder, one asked what the kids were up to. They were at daycare and hadn’t been home for three hours.
Yep, we’ve all been there.
ABC Kids is basically the soundtrack to my business life and, given inspiration can come from anywhere if you’re open to it, here are the business lessons I’ve picked up from every working parent’s favourite channel.
1. Postman Pat: Look for ways to add value
After years on his regular mail route, Postman Pat branched out into a Special Delivery Service. A specialist service managing everything from livestock delivery to house moving, Pat saw a gap in the market and stepped up. My only issue? He agrees to every job before hearing any details, usually just “I’ve got a tricky one for you Pat” or “We need your help Pat”. Should he take the helicopter, minivan, jeep, boat, plane, snowmobile, motorbike or the limousine? Somehow, he just knows.
What’s the point: If you see a need from your existing customer base for a premium service or product, you could be the one to fill it. But, beware of over capitalising – Pat appears to have invested in a lot of delivery choices for a small Yorkshire valley.
2. Bookaboo: Learner for life
He’s a drum-playing puppy, but without his book a day, he just can’t play! Luckily, his fame brings a gaggle of celebrities to his green room to read him his story and get him back out to rock the house.
What’s the point: Be like Bookaboo and make no apologies for needing time to learn and grow. Put your development first, no one else will.
3. Shaun the Sheep: Support your staff
Sheepdog Bitzer is a case study in middle management stress. He does the lion’s share of the work while the Farmer relaxes. Stressed-out, the sheep run rings around him, the chickens rule the roost, and the uber-aggressive pigs cause havoc. The Farmer is oblivious. Bitzer avoids confrontation and punishment, but he’s in his own private hell. Wow, that got dark quick.
What’s the point: If managing staff is part of your business, encourage honesty and open communication. Would your staff admit to making a mistake? If not, they need more security in their role.
4. Sesame Street: Be prepared to say goodbye
Lots of people lament the changes to Sesame Street when they see their childhood favourite has a new format, characters and approaches to learning. Big Bird and Oscar are still there, but Elmo and Abby the magical fairy are where it’s at. Gen X parents who shake their heads at the change should remember: it seems dramatic because you had a 30-something year break from watching it. It’d be kind of sad if it was the same, wouldn’t it?
What’s the point: Sesame Street is a show for pre-schoolers, so the audience is always transient. If your business is the same, evolve to suit the needs of each new generation. Don’t be tempted to keep pleasing a customer base that’s no longer your bread and butter.
5. Go Jetters: Never judge a unicorn by its cover
You can find the best advice and guidance in the most unlikely of places. For the Go Jetters, a team of globe-trotting animated adventurers, their mentor and guide is Ubercorn. He’s a rainbow unicorn who loves disco and wears a sparkly zip-up unitard. From their Jet Pad headquarters, he uses mad DJ skills to help save the day.
What’s the point: If you’re regularly seeing rainbow unicorn DJs in your business day, you might need to slow down. But, advice and support can come from anywhere. Be open to advice and support from others, even if their business looks a little different to yours.
6. Fireman Sam: Know when enough is enough
Norman bloody Price. A 7-year-old who causes an inordinate number of emergencies in the otherwise sleepy hamlet of Pontypandy. He’s been rescued 57 times (I checked) by Sam and his fire buddies, and no one seems to mind. In business, this is like having a customer who complains every time they order from you, but comes back again and again to prolong the torture.
What’s the point: If there’s a squeaky wheel customer taking 80% of your time for 5% of your revenue, it’s time to set some boundaries. Draw a line on how you’ll engage with them, and be clear on the consequences if they overstep. Stay professional, but be prepared to cut them loose.
7. Play School: You decide
Celebrating 50 years on air, Play School moves with the times (I saw Big Ted and Little Ted using FaceTiming last week), but keeps a solid, dependable brand. They haven’t been afraid to push social and political envelopes, featuring same-sex parents or families that look a little different. They lead the way, without losing their traditional warmth.
What’s the point: Not sure, I just love Play School. There’s the resilience of Humpty Dumpty, the versatility of Jemima, the brand loyalty we attach to our favourite shape window (always go for the arch window, or the dogged determination of Jack and Jill to get their pail of water. Lessons abound.
8. Mister Maker: Ignore the haters
Mister Maker drives me barmy. Making things in the Party Pad (his magical art room) and travelling the world doing cool craft projects. But… 4 and a bit years into this parenthood thing, I respect him. Because the kids love him. He’s consistently enthusiastic, wears funny clothes and makes things with scissors and glue. I’m not meant to love him, the kids are. And that’s good enough for me.
What’s the point: What you do or sell isn’t going to be for everyone. Know your target audience and stay focused, even if others question it or don’t understand. You don’t have to be all things to all people. Let the haters drink their haterade, and do your thing.
9. Octonauts: Know your worth
The underwater Octopod is staffed by a team of half-animal, half-vegetable creatures called the Vegimals. Led by Tunip, they live to garden, cook and clean for the Octonauts. Rescued as eggs, is it a sense of gratitude that keeps Tunip and the gang pandering to the whims of the Octonauts? Or are they held against their will? Either way, I’m confident they’re below award wage as they churn out fish biscuits, kelp cakes, kelp pie, kelp cookies…
What’s the point: Know your worth and value your time. Don’t deliver on ridiculous wages or a discounted hourly rate because of misplaced loyalty or pricing guilt. It’s great to have a strong work ethic, but working hard is not its own reward.
When life gives you ABC Kids, make lemonade
ABC Kids asks the big questions. Should we tell our kids Peter Rabbit shouldn’t be stealing from Farmer MacGregor’s garden? Is Mummy Pig a copywriter (all signs point to yes)? And what’s the deal with Jimmy Giggle and that tiny bed? Let the man stretch out.
When it’s part of your day because of kids, you can choose to learn from anything.
Have you learned any good business lessons from your kids’ tv shows?