Please think about your legacy, because you’re writing it every day. – Gary Vaynerchuck
All the kids had lemonade stands that summer. It was like the hottest corporate trend among the under-sixes.
In keeping with Lord Samuel’s advice of Location, location, location, my neighbor Tally and her best friend Bo set up shop in the choicest spot, right where the cars turned off the highway, and they had a heavy, dark red cooler full of store-bought ice. They charged the most for their glass of lemonade: twenty-five cents. Many cars stopped and purchased Tally and Bo’s lemonade, because of course they didn’t realize there was cheaper, and in some cases, better lemonade further down the road. Also, once Tally and Bo netted a customer, the customer didn’t tend to bother with any other beverage enterprises, because Tally’s product was consistent and always served in a friendly and appreciative manner. They patronized Tally and Bo’s lemonade stand, exclusively and regularly, even if it did cost a quarter.
Virginia and her two sisters had the best lemonade, since it was hand-squeezed, with lots of sugar but not too much, and a tiny slice of fresh lemon floating on the top, which was what her marketing people (her eldest brother) had recommended. They had the manpower to make ice themselves before opening hours, and a place to warehouse the ice, so all the components of their lemonade were fresh and hand-made, which was quite a selling point, when you come to think of it. Their profits, despite the low margin, were impressive. It was just as Henry Ford once said, The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed, though their lemonade was twenty cents per glass, not a dollar.
Cody and I had set up shop at an intersection with a stop sign, and to be competitive we charged fifteen cents a glass for our lemonade, which was made from frozen cans to save on time and expenses. Unfortunately, we skimped on the ice, and I could tell by the disappointment in the eyes of some of our clients that the missing ice was an issue, even if the lemonade was “ice cold” as advertised on the signage. Cody always smiled and said “We ran out of ice!”, a lie if ever there was one, and not very effective if it was a repeat customer, who might think we lacked in the area inventory skills, as well as salesmanship. So Cody bit his tongue, for as Steve Jobs said, Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations. We added cold Pepsi to our inventory, and just sold it by the can, thereby avoiding the necessity of stocking more paper cups.
Sales were relatively brisk at first, and aside from the ice, there were no registered complaints. But I could visualize where I wanted the business to go, and so far Cody and I were falling short.
To meet the challenge with the ice, we checked with our investors, but since I’d already got an advance on my allowance, no further loan was proffered, even though my request was backed by viable projections. I mean, once we had the ice solution, which involved finding a supplier, we would be huge: too big to fail. I found it rather short-sighted on my mother’s part, and Cody and I faced a disturbing dip in sales.
Then, a miracle happened.
The secret of success in life, said Benjamin Disraeli, is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.
When Molly had six puppies, Cody and I knew what to do.
We set up a small table with an umbrella and three chairs, which while a bit tatty from languishing in the garden shed, provided shade and a place for clients to sit and enjoy their beverages. As soon as the puppies were old enough, Cody and I put the box o’puppies in the shade of the umbrella.
There were cars lined up round the block, and people, tens or twenties of people, buying our cold but iceless lemonade, mingling and chatting, and, mostly, surrounding the puppies and waiting for their turn to cuddle one.
Tally and Bo came by, and so did Virginia, her three sisters, and her eldest brother, and while they all sniffed at the quality of our product, they appreciated our creativity, and just loved the puppies. I wasn’t bothered by their consternation, since Business is a combination of war and sport (Andre Maurois), after all.
Molly was Cody’s dog, so he supervised the puppy division, while I poured, took cash, and kept inventory. Which, needless to say, was usually depleted before our energy and ambition were, on any given day.
About a week later, my sister got a skateboard. No one else in the neigbourhood had one at that time. It was dark blue, with flames painted on the base. Cody and I closed the stand, since strategy meetings, customer service, and day-to-day operations were taking up so much of our time. We were also eager to reinvest our profits.
And as Walt Disney said, A man should never neglect his family for business.
- Original Prompt: Legacy, March 10, 2016.