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..

Fight, Flee or Just Plain Panic!

Rome was not built in a day. Yea I know…so cliché, but so true. No matter what kind of business you plan on starting, the beginning is not going to go smooth. It never does and it never will.

Whether it is a restaurant or a dotcom, things just pop up and cause headaches. The only thing one needs to remember when this occurs is to stay calm and find solutions.

We unveiled our new menu tonight at my restaurant and it was chaos! It reminded me of our grand opening two years ago. Food was flying in all directions in the kitchen, customer wait times were exceeding 40 mins (yikes!), employees were getting into fights with each other and numerous other problems occurred. But as a seasoned entrepreneur, all I did was observe and learn.

Don’t try to fix all the problems at once. You’ll have a heart attack or your head will explode (seriously). Begin fixing problems or as I like to call them “inefficiencies” one at a time.

A clipboard and a calm demeanor can do wonders when observing your business (that not so well oiled machine) in action. I’ve noticed time and time again that many business owners get caught up in quickly “band-aiding” the problem instead of trying to understand why the problem occurred in the first place. That’s a total rookie move, and it took me 10 years to figure that out.

So when the sh%# hits the fan, just step aside, plug your nose and endure. If you keep a cool head and fix the cause of  the problems, everything will be just fine.


Visualize and Achieve

It seems like the new buzz word these days is visualization. In the books, magazines and blogs I read, everyone is talking about the power of visualizing your success.

One book in particular said that visualizing your goals in your mind is one thing, but creating a tangible visual aid is even more powerful.

I always tell colleagues that one of my ultimate goals is to be on the cover of Wired magazine. I think about that every day. So I made the above picture last night and taped it to my wall. I stare at it constantly, and deep down, I can see it happening! It’s a great feeling.

I used Adobe Photoshop, but I found some great sites that will help anyone get on a magazine cover. Let’s face it, if you make it onto on the cover of your industry’s magazine, you’re doing well. The sites are:

And it doesn’t have to be a magazine cover. Get creative and try having fun with it. Maybe your goal is to buy a new car or a house in the near future. Follow my examples and see what happens.

I Love This Movie

please install flash

I watched this movie again last night and I forgot how good of a flick it was. Definitely worth the rent. I’m not sure if this one is on the Netflix instant queue yet.

It’s called Layer Cake.

“The art of good business is being a good middle man.” – This movie really drove that point home. For me, this was an incredibly powerful statement. And that is why this principle has become the driving force behind several of my newest business ideas.