HomeOPINIONThe Lemonade Project

The Lemonade Project

As is the Kiwi way, I have recently returned from my annual pilgrimage to worship the sun, sand and surf.  

You may recall that this time last year I wrote about the lessons learned from my kids’ foray into retail with an iconic lemonade stand near the hallowed sands of Whangamata.

Once more out of the mouths of babes came wisdom, or at least random thoughts that provided fodder for 2015’s retail resolutions. 

Fuelled by the high-octane success of the previous summer, the kids set out to recreate the commercial framework required to make buckets of money to fund summer holiday luxuries. Namely Hubba Bubba gum and scoop ice-cream.

I advised them to plan ahead and decide what they would need and who was going to do what, so the next day they could capture the morning rush through the reserve to the beachfront. Overhearing their conversation, I was impressed that they remembered a few key ingredients to success;

  1. Differentiation: “We have to write ‘Delicious Homemade Lemonade’ so people will know our lemonade is better than anyone else’s. Homemade and not from the shop. We should also write ‘cold’ on our poster so people will want it because it’s so hot and there is nowhere you can buy drinks on the beach.”

(2) Location: “We need to put our stand on the path that goes from the reserve to the beach and near the car park. That way we will get more people.”

(3) Stock and workflow management: “This year we need to buy takeaway cups, more lemons and fizzy water plus ice and keep it in a chilly bin with us. Last year we kept running back to the house but if we had everything with us we won’t need to do that. Takeaway cups mean we won’t need to wash up cups. We’ll also need a table as our chilly bin will need to open and close lots.”

But some fresh, more questionable, thinking emerged, derived in part from cockiness and in part from watching too many reality TV shows.

Early on my son announced he was the CEO, his sidekick Leo was proclaimed COO and they were going to run everything and tell the girls, aka the workers, also referred to as plebs, what they would have to do – i.e. everything. The girls responded with a huddle, or as my son declared, created a faction. (Minecraft has made sometimes surprising contributions to our nine-year-old’s vocabulary). The faction appointed themselves joint CMO and CPO’s, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief People Officer, because they were “good with talking and people.”  They also liked animals so could pat the dogs if there were any.

After the first batch of lemonade was made, the CEO and COO ordered the workers around telling them to get this and do that. Suitably unamused and protesting, the workers were advised they would not get paid unless they did what they were told.

All their suggestions fell on deaf ears: “Let’s put the stand near the picnic table because we can sit there and have an umbrella to protect people from the sun”; “Let’s yell out ‘Fresh lemonade,’ so people know what we are selling.”
Consequently it didn’t take long for the “faction” to morph into an entirely separatist movement.

The girls went head to head against the boys and a round of fierce lemonade retailing ensued. The girls were natural tradespeople, yelling, “Lemonade, get your fresh lemonade here,” and engaging in conversation with passers-by.
“Are you going to the beach? It’s hot today, do you want to try our lemonade?” “Free samples” was highlighted on their poster. Meanwhile, the boys sat glumly looking at the passing traffic.

The CEO informed me that the girls were cheating by moving their stand right onto the walking track so people couldn’t pass without going around them. They had also befriended a neighbour who had arrived with fresh cookies and were now selling those too!

Truth be told, the boys had a superior lemonade product. It tasted colder, fizzier and more lemony but the girls were providing  a much more engaging and authentic experience. You felt like they wanted to be there, that they were having a great time talking to you and they actually wanted you to be their customer.

So when you are setting your 2015 retail resolutions, pause to think about some of the pitfalls my boys discovered during their brief sojourn in retail.  

A clear and clearly-articulated vision The boys believed they had defined roles and responsibilities but they lacked clarity on what the vision and values were for the business. They lacked leadership and communication skills.  Just telling your staff what to do without having a clear message of how you are going to make a difference means you are just another retailer. Your staff are everything in delivering your in-store experience.

Engage your team around why their role is important to the delivery of your retail experience, to customers’ lives and to the overall success of the business.  Give them reasons for getting out of bed in the morning. Reason to be passionate and a purpose beyond simply pulling a wage – there are many routes to Hubba Bubba!

Your competition moves and evolves, as do shoppers’ expectations.  If you can’t stay nimble, don’t always look through the lens of a shopper, don’t understand your onliness and can’t, or don’t want to provide an engaging experience, why not just shut up shop?  The retail world doesn’t need you – it needs retailers with commitment, consistency and most importantly passion.

So what are your resolutions for 2015? I know what mine are.

This story was originally published in NZRetail magazine issue 736, March 2015.

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