Lemonade Stand Simplicity

I saw a lemonade stand today, something I haven’t seen in a long time. Warm childhood memories came rushing back as I watched the two kids playfully wait for their next sale. Naturally I had to buy a glass, and it was delicious.

It dawned on me that these two kids were probably netting a larger profit than most of the local businesses in the area, and that made me laugh! Because of their youth, inexperience, lack of formal education and outside influences, these kids were doing something simple and pure. They were focusing on one thing and doing it well.

They were selling lemonade. One flavor, one size and one price. There were no up sells or discounts, no additional employees and no complicated point of sale systems. “This is a cash only establishment,” the young girl firmly told me.

As we grow older and “wiser,” we tend to complicate things, in life and business. More is better we’re taught. More features, more products and more options. It’s taken me twelve years to realize this uncomplicated fact: Simplicity is key. A three word phrase that holds more power than any business book or publication.

37signals.com, Google, Facebook, In-n-out, Ipods, Flip cameras, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Youtube, Twitter, Tumblr, Plentyoffish.com and Subway. What do these businesses have in common? They are simple and focused.

When developing your new business concept, never be afraid to embrace that lemonade stand simplicity. Focus on the key objective of your business. If you’re developing a website, watch out for feature creep. If you’re opening a restaurant, keep the menu simple and stress quality over quantity of items.

As a thought experiment, I imagined what would have happened if I took over that lemonade stand for a week and let my little entrepreneurial devil go unchecked. First I’d buy a cash register, there’s no way I can trust these little kids to handle the money properly. I’d implement credit cards using my trusty Iphone credit card swiper, which means I’d also have to open a bank and merchant account. One flavor is boring, we need at least three. And while we’re at it, we should offer small and large sizes. While word of mouth advertising is good, I think we should make some discount coupons and hand them out around the neighborhood. Did you apply for your resale number yet? We’re going to need that if we plan on expanding throughout the rest of the neighborhood. Did you do a cost analysis on the lemonade yet? What do you mean you’re only 9, that’s business 101 kid! Better add a little more water to that mix so we maximize profit. This isn’t fun anymore? Stop complaining. Who said business is supposed to be fun!? Give me a few years and I’ll turn you into Gordon Gekko.

See what I mean. It’s easy to complicate things. But don’t! Simplicity is key. Repeat that out loud until you’re blue in the face, and then repeat it some more!

And now it’s time for me to go back and get another lemonade..

To Lead is To Be Confident

I’ve often heard the term “born leader” or “natural leader” and those terms make most think of leadership as a god given talent. I, on the other hand, think it is a mind set. To be a good leader, or perceived as a good leader, confidence is crucial.

To be a good leader, one does not have to be out spoken or aggressive. I’ve met many people I consider leaders that are soft spoken and passive, but their actions and words reflect confidence in themselves.

Confidence in the way you speak and even walk, as well as your mannerisms is important in controlling how others perceive you. Leaders tend to keep their heads held up, their shoulders rolled back and they maintain eye contact. When you shake a person’s hand, shake it firmly. When you walk into a room, walk in thinking like you own it.

Silence can also be an important characteristic. Great leaders listen. Sometimes they pose questions or offer suggestions and allow others to fill in the blanks, gently nudging them in the right direction. People are smarter than you think. Often they don’t need to be directed, just given a soft kick in the rear end.

To me, a great leader isn’t someone who tells people what to do. A great leader is someone who can empower others to figure out problems for themselves, to improvise and adapt on their own. The rewards for everyone are much greater that way.

Book Review: Rework

Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson

In the words of Seth Godin, this book will make you very uncomfortable and that is a good thing.

I love this book!

It’s an out of the box view of how to start and run a modern business. With chapter titles such as Meetings are Toxic, Your Estimates Suck, Drug Dealers get it Right and Resumes are Ridiculous,  Jason and David have turned the business world on its head.

In the spirit of this book, I’m keeping this review short and simple. This book is easy to read, straight forward, honest and cutting edge. Buy it, borrow it, read it.

Tension Headaches – An Entrepreneur’s Worst Nightmare

(I used to feel like this dude ever day!)

For a long time, I was plagued with constant headaches. They weren’t as painful as migraines, but they occurred every day, all day. I tried everything to cure them. That included banging my head against the wall and popping tylenol capsules like tic-tacs. Unfortunately, nothing worked!

After speaking to a few friends who had the same headaches, stress levels and hectic schedule I did, I came to the realization that these headaches were simply a symptom of our busy lifestyles. Stress is the number one cause of these types of headaches. I finally found a cure, and it didn’t come in the form of a pill.

Put simply, I had to learn how to “chill.” Here is a few things I did to rid myself of this problem:

  1. Stop taking pills and start drinking more water. For all those people taking pain relievers and chasing them down with massive amounts of coffee (you know who you are!), stop! Tylenol doesn’t help and caffeine can actually spur on these types of headaches.
  2. Go Rag Doll at least 3 times a day. This works! At least 3 times a day, you need to find a quiet place, completely relax your body, take deep breathes and work on clearing your mind. Do this for no less than 5 minutes. When I say rag doll, I really mean it. After doing this enough, you’ll learn how to relax every muscle in your body, which can relieve headaches, stress and anxiety. When you become “stressed”, a process in your body referred to as a “cascade of cortisols” begins. This process basically puts your body into a flight or flee mode thereby creating anxiety. The rag doll exercise relieves this.
  3. Workout! Whether it be calisthenics in your living room or a brief jog down the street. Physical exercise is crucial to living a healthy lifestyle and it will help relieve that nasty tension causing those headaches.
  4. Make sure the A/C is working. A warm work environment doesn’t help and can actually be counter productive.
  5. Most importantly, take a step back. Whenever I got a headache, my first instinct was to power through it and continue working. Just ignore the pain. Right?? Wrong! Your productivity falls more than you think. These headaches are your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Your body is saying “Hello?! Are you there? I need attention and if I don’t get it, I’m gonna kick your ass!” So try to lighten your workload and spend a little more time on you. Don’t worry, the work isn’t going anywhere! :)

These are the steps I took to decrease my anxiety and headaches, and I’m confident they can help you. These are things I learned from personal experience, not from google searches. There are no magic pills or quick cures.

I’d love to hear some of your remedies as well. Feel free to send them to me and I will post them for the rest of the readers!