Seth Godin has an interesting post up today on lemonade…
In it, he contrasts two kids running lemonade stands. The first one cranks out cups of store bought lemonade for $1, the other takes a different approach…
The lemonade is free, but there’s a big tip jar. When you pull up, the owner of the stand beams as only a proud eleven year old girl can beam. She takes her time and reaches into a pail filled with ice and lemons. She pulls out a lemon. Slices it. Then she squeezes it with a clever little hand juicer.
The whole time that’s she’s squeezing, she’s also talking to you, sharing her insights (and yes, her joy) about the power of lemonade to change your day. It’s a beautiful day and she’s in no real hurry. Lemonade doesn’t hurry, she says. It gets made the right way or not at all. Then she urges you to take a bit less sugar, because it tastes better that way.
While you’re talking, a dozen people who might have become customers drive on by because it appears to take too long. You don’t mind, though, because you’re engaged, almost entranced. A few people pull over and wait in line behind you.
Seth ends the parable with the customer putting $5 in the second kid’s cup and asks which entrepreneur we think has a brighter future.
The simple parable speaks to a lot of issues:
- The notion of leveraging “free” as a means of drawing potential customers in.
- The value of taking extraordinary care to create a remarkable product and service.
- The intangible value of the personal connection and the extra mile
- The ego and soul gratification of knowing you are helping a kid become an entrepreneur.
- The notion that the experience beyond the product matters.
- The fact that people will wait in line for something truly extraordinary.
But, what might not have been so obvious was the fact that running the second lemonade stand will undoubtedly be so much more fun. Sure, the first one might be easier and crank out singles all day long. It may generate a consistent flow of cash, at least in the short term. But, it won’t be long until your dollar-buzz begins to get worn thin by:
- The boredom of repetition,
- The lack of genuine engagement with the the people you seek to serve and impact,
- The inability to to beam with pride at the outrageous product and service you’ve delivered, and
- The relatively low level of genuine joy in the process.
It’s an odd thing to say, but as a business principle…fun matters.
Not on a superficial “let’s have scooter races in the hallways” level (though, that’s part of the equation), but on a deeper “this feels really good” level. It keeps us working hard, coming back and pushing through challenge. Because the process we’ve chosen to serve others is intrinsically rewarding.
It’s work. But, it’s joyful work. So, you not only don’t dread it, you look forward to it.
And, when you have fun at work, when your days are driven by joy, it does four other massively powerful things:
- It infects the mood of those you work with and serve with a similar sense of energy and joy.
- It infuses the entire organization with energy, making it easier to recruit and keep talented, upbeat employees and build a “culture” of joy.
- It elevates the product/service you provide from a blip on the radar to a STORY that MUST be passed on with zest, creating a source of evangelistic, organic and free buzz.
- It better inoculates you against competition. If someone moves next to the $1-a-cup store bought lemonade stand and charges 75 cents for the same thing, the first kid is toast. Not so with the second. Because the product is unique and the total experience, which is what’s really being bought, is magic. And, people don’t so easily walk away from magic.
Can you build a business purely around a need, a commodity, a price and an opening?
But, why would you want to?
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