The Flintstones should be required viewing for anybody who wants to start their own business. Seriously, anybody who wants to start their own company could learn a lot from Fred Flintstone -- at least in the episode, "The Gravelberry Pie King," which is like one long animated business lesson. Unfortunately for Fred, you can learn a lot more from his mistakes than his successes.
This particular Flintstones episode really is a must-see episode for future or established business owners. Fred practically offers a masterclass in how to start, or not start, a business.
Today's "TV Lesson" Breakdown:
- A Little About “The Gravelberry Pie King” Episode
- Business Lesson #1: Don’t quit your day job unless you’re prepared
- Business Lesson #2: It’s smart to network
- Business Lesson #3: If you don’t have business expert, get a mentor
- Business Lesson #4: Pay attention to your operating costs
- Business Lesson #5: Keep your business commitments
- Business Lesson #6: Surround yourself with smart people
- Business Lesson #7: Don’t get greedy
- Business Lesson #8: Don’t make demands if you aren’t prepared for the consequences
- Business Lesson #9: Market forces determine your price
- Business Lesson #10: Make sure you have the right permits and licenses to run your business
- Business Lesson #11: If your business model is a good one, but you can’t quite make it work, maybe you can sell it.
A Little About “The Gravelberry Pie King” Episode
Fred loses his job, and he gets into the pie business.
That’s the story in a nutshell. Let’s jump into the business lessons, shall we?
Business Lesson #1: Don’t quit your day job unless you’re prepared
That’s the lesson I’m taking away from what happens to Fred, but he doesn’t quit his job at the quarry to go into the pie business.
Fred's coworkers have a list of demands for their boss Mr. Slate, and they convince him to be their spokesperson. The Great Gazoo also persuades Fred to have a talk with Mr. Slate. Gazoo was a weird little guy, and it’s hard to explain what a space alien was doing on a show about cavemen. Until Gazoo came along, I completely bought the idea of cavepeople driving cars and eating brontosaurus burgers.
But I digress.
The employees at the quarry want Valentine’s Day off, and it isn't that they are a bunch of romantics. As Barney tells Fred at the beginning of the episode, “Gosh, Fred, they're already getting all the holidays off. Plus their birthdays, their mothers' birthdays, and their wives' birthdays.”
Next year, Fred tells his coworker pals, they’ll ask Mr. Slate for Groundhog’s Day off.
Fred meets with Mr. Slate. The conversation seems to go well -- at first.
“I appreciate your courage in facing me with these demands,” Mr. Slate says.
“Oh, thanks, Mr. Slate. I kind of thought you would.”
“I'm a reasonable businessman, Flintstone. I've wanted to give the men a raise for a long time.”
“Boy, that's swell,” Fred says.
“But I could never figure out where the money would come from until now.”
“Where's it gonna come from?” Fred asks.
“From you. I'll fire you and divide your salary among the other men,” Mr. Slate says.
And so Fred loses his job. That is how many successful business owners start their own companies. It can be hard to justify leaving a stable job to take a calculated risk like starting your own company. But if you're fired, you could take it as a gift and finally start that business you've always dreamed of owning.
Fred wasn’t ready to start a business and had no plans to do so – hence the takeaway with this lesson – but if he had been more prepared, Mr. Slate would have been doing him a great favor.
Business Lesson #2: It’s smart to network
That’s how Fred ends up with his own pie business. Unfortunately, he doesn’t tell Wilma that he has lost his job, but on the plus side, he doesn’t mope about his misfortune at home. Instead, he mopes at a city park, where he ends up meeting P.J. Safestone, who happens to own a supermarket chain.
When Safestone tries a slice of gravelberry pie – part of Fred’s lunch that Wilma made for him – he really is impressed.
“It’s out of this world,” Safestone says. “I never tasted anything like it.”
Mr. Safestone wants to sell Wilma’s pies.
“Those pies are going to make you a fortune, Flintstone. I’ll feature them in everyone of my Safestone supermarkets, from coast to coast.”
Mr. Safestone asks Fred how many pies he thinks he can deliver in a first order.
Fred suggests five.
“Think big, Flintstone,” Mr. Safestone says. “I’ll take 50 pies.”
Even better, Mr. Safestone pays Fred half of his money upfront. Fred won’t have to spend a small fortune on making pies.
Business Lesson #3: If you don’t have business expert, get a mentor
Fred doesn’t do this. Finding or hiring a business coach or a consultant isn’t mentioned in the episode, but in real life, if you ever start a pie business, and you have no idea what you’re doing, that’s really probably exactly what you should do.
You’ve probably heard of SCORE. It’s a national nonprofit that offers free business mentorship, and it’s been around since 1964. They don’t really use the acronym any more, but originally SCORE stood for Service Corps of Retired Executives.
Generally, you would find – and you still do – retired executives offering business mentorship.
It’s an excellent organization, and, man, Fred Flintstone would have benefited from something like that. Being The Flintstones, if they had mentioned SCORE, I guess they would have called it STONE or StoneScore. As it was, when The Gravelberry Pie King episode aired, it was 1965, and SCORE was only a year old.
Business Lesson #4: Pay attention to your operating costs
Fred convinces Wilma to make 50 pies. Betty helps her, and Barney pitches in, too. For instance, Barney constructs an ice house, so they can freeze the pies.
Fred gets the pies to an enthusiastic Mr. Safestone, who immediately puts in another order – for 500 pies.
This is great news, except that Wilma informs Fred that she has been doing a little arithmetic.
“Those pies we sold for 40 cents cost us 52 cents to make,” Wilma says.
“So?” Fred asks.
“Fred, wake up,” Wilma says. “We’re losing 12 cents on every pie.”
Business Lesson #5: Keep your business commitments
Fred committed to producing 500 pies that he would get 40 cents a piece for, and since he was spending 52 cents on each, Barney figured they were losing $60 on the order.
(That doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind that these were the caveman days when inflation was lower, and $60 bought a lot more brontosaurus burgers than it does today.)
Well, Mr. Gazoo drops by and comes up with the bright idea to charge Mr. Safestone 64 cents a pie, and instead of losing 12 cents a pie, they would make 12 cents.
“Whenever your cost goes up, you pass it onto the customer,” Mr. Gazoo says.
That wasn’t a bad idea for the next order, but Fred wants to do it for this order and avoid taking the $60 loss.
Business Lesson #6: Surround yourself with smart people
Fred did do this, in a lot of ways. Wilma Flintstone is no dummy. Barney can be a bit dim, but he knows right from wrong and argues against changing the price on Mr. Safestone.
Mr. Gazoo, however, feels that there’s nothing wrong with changing the price on the order, and alas, that’s who Fred listens to.
Business Lesson #7: Don’t get greedy
Generally, people don’t get rich with a business overnight. Sure, it happens, but usually an overnight success is the product of a lot of days and nights of hard work – and then, maybe, if you’re lucky, you get rich.
Well, unfortunately, Fred starts thinking about it and figures, why stop with 12 cents profit per pie?
“Why should I be satisfied with a measly 12 cents profit when I can make more?” Fred asks, talking more to himself than Barney.
“Huh?” Barney asks.
“Sure, I’ll raise the price to 75 cents a pie.”
“Oh, I don’t think Mr. Safestone’s gonna like that, Fred.”
“So what?” Fred retort. “This is a seller’s market. I got him just where I want him.”
Business Lesson #8: Don’t make demands if you aren’t prepared for the consequences
This is a good life lesson, but certainly it’s one all business owners should consider. So Fred tells Mr. Safestone that the price is now 75 cents a pie.
“Being a fellow businessman, you should understand about rising production costs,” Fred says.
“Yes,” Mr. Safestone agrees. “But 75 cents? That’s ridiculous.”
Mr. Safestone tells Fred that he can keep the pies. He won’t buy them.
Fred panics and could have probably made a deal if Mr. Safestone wasn’t so furious. Fred asks what he should do with the pies, and Mr. Safestone says, “You can—”
And then a whistle blows, signaling the day’s work is ending, and it drowns out the sound of Mr. Safestone’s voice.
It’s a pretty clever moment, considering Mr. Safestone was probably saying something not fit for 1960s TV audiences or kids.
In any case, Fred and Barney drive back home, with 500 pies.
Business Lesson #9: Market forces determine your price
Every experienced business owner knows this, but novice entrepreneurs don’t always consider it. You may think something should sell for a certain price, but the collective opinions of your customers is what really matters.
Fred decides that he and Barney should sell their gravelberry pies on the side of a busy road, and they put up a sign, selling the pies for 70 cents each.
The cars all drive by. Nobody’s willing to pay that much.
Fred lowers the price to 60 cents, but that’s still too high for the market. Everybody speeds by.
He lowers it to 40 cents, which may have worked, but the pies, which need to be frozen, are thawing out and looking kind of disgusting. Nobody stops.
Fred puts “Make Offer” on the sign, but still nobody is stopping. So he and Barney decide to go home.
Business Lesson #10: Make sure you have the right permits and licenses to run your business
Before they leave to go home, however, a police officer stops Fred and Barney and asks to see their license to conduct business on a public highway.
“Uh, license?” Fred asks.
“That’s right,” the officer says. “You gotta have a license to sell those pies.”
“Well, the joke’s on you officer,” Fred says. “We didn’t sell any.”
Fred laughs – until he starts crying. Now the officer feels sorry for him and offers him a handkerchief.
Business Lesson #11: If your business model is a good one, but you can’t quite make it work, maybe you can sell it.
Or maybe the lesson is – know when to cut your losses and make a deal.
Wilma meets with Mr. Safestone and sells the recipe to him for $100 to cover their losses.
It’s not a great deal, frankly, if you look at it too closely. Wilma spends $50 of that $100 to pay a photographer to take her photo because Wilma’s picture will now be on the packaging for all of the pies. You don’t get the sense that Wilma is going to be paid every time a pie is sold, and why should she have to pay for a photographer? The pie company should do that.
Still, it’s hard to quibble with this episode of The Flintstones too much. There really are a lot of business lessons to be found in “The Gravelberry Pie King,” and we don't know for sure that Wilma isn't receiving compensation for her photo being on the packaging. So we'll assume that Wilma was savvy enough to get some deal so that with every pie sold, she and Fred are receiving some money that they can divert to their retirement funds.
She was, after all, the brains of the couple, something Fred likely recognized, even if he probably wouldn't readily admit it. In fact, on her way back from dealing with Mr. Safestone, Wilma even stopped to talk to Mr. Slate and convince him to give Fred his old job back.
Fred was happy to hear the news. By now, he had enough experience as a food entrepreneur that he wasn't too proud to eat some humble pie.
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