Summer is at an end, and here in the south, that means it’s almost time to say goodbye to 104-degree days and sweltering nights. Sadly, that also means we have to say goodbye to one more summertime fixture: the neighborhood kid with a lemonade stand.
As cliché as a Norman Rockwell painting, kids have been selling lemonade on hot afternoons since suburbs were invented. While you may have thought these little stands to be cute—and maybe you’ve even bought a cup or two—have you ever stopped to think about the business lessons you could learn from a kid with a lemonade stand?
These little entrepreneurs are made of the toughest stuff in business. While other businesses are worrying about exit strategies and looking for cash from venture capitalists, the kid with the lemonade stand is already turning a profit. She is out there walking the walk while “bigger,” more “serious” people are just talking the talk. She is making a profit, and she has a few things to teach you. Here are four lessons learned from the kid with the lemonade stand.
1. She Is Small. Even though some small businesses feel that their size puts them behind the rest of the race, a kid with a stand knows differently. She is one person (or two, as the case may be). She is the boss and the employee, and she knows that being small means she can make quick decisions, changes, and expansions. Where larger organizations might be slowed by committee decision-making, a kid with a lemonade stand has very few people to answer to. Are your decisions happening quickly or are they getting stuck in committee?
2. She Knows Good Conditions. Nearly everyone has heard the old real estate adage about “location, location, location,” but there is one thing more important than location: condition. A kid with a lemonade stand knows that nobody wants ice-cold lemonade if the temperature is below freezing. Instead, she waits until the burning heat of summer to set up shop to give the people what they want. Are you offering the right services for the current conditions?
3. She Can Innovate. Lemonade is a tasty beverage, but what if lemonade isn’t selling? Perhaps a slice of orange in the pitcher will help. A kid running a lemonade stand isn’t afraid to make changes. She knows she isn’t held back by thoughts of “that’s how we’ve always done it.” She is ready to add some sugar, slice some oranges, or even brew some iced tea. Are the services and products you are selling perfect for your market, or could they use a slice of orange?
4. She Is a Specialist. Starbucks started out selling limited flavors of coffee. Even today they specialize in coffees and items that go along well with coffee. A kid with a lemonade stand knows that she has limited resources and focuses them on selling lemonade. She doesn’t try to sell sandwiches or car stereos; she just focuses on lemonade, making it the best she can. Are you a specialist, selling the best product you can? Or are you trying to spread your limited resources too thin, trying to do too much?
One afternoon I saw a kid walking down the sidewalk with a little cart. She would go to the front door of each house and ring the bell. She would talk to the person, and something was exchanged, but I couldn’t see what. As she came closer I saw she was giving cups to some of the people. When she came to my house I realized that this brilliant little kid was selling lemonade door-to-door. She had innovated beyond the lemonade stand and had a lemonade delivery service! When I saw this, I bought her entire pitcher for $30.
Perhaps $30 is expensive for lemonade, but it is dirt-cheap for a valuable business lesson. How much is your lemonade worth?