The Lemonade Stand
by Bernard Malouin. July 2, 2006
It was a sunny, warm, beautiful Sunday afternoon. I was driving in one of the cozy parts of town and as I came to a stop, there was on the other side of the street, a lemonade stand. It was hot, I was thirsty, and so I drove on the other street corner and parked.
Before I continue with my story, I would like to ask you if you think that operating a lemonade stand is good wholesome fun for kids? "As fun as video games?" On with my story.
I got off my car and as I walked toward the stand. I said: "Bonjour, comment allez-vous?". There were three little kids, two boys and a girl, about six or seven years old, and they looked at me, sort of embarrassed, raising their shoulders without saying anything. I figured that since I was in the English part of town, they must have been speaking English. So I said: "Hi, how are you?" Again same shy reaction I guess one would except from a six year old faced with an unknown grownup.
So, I ask how much it was and one of the little boys pulled a piece of cardboard and on it was the price list. It said:
1 glass 0.25 cents
2 glass 0.50 cents
3 glass 0.75 cents
4 glass 1.00 cents
5 glass 1.25 cents
6 glass 1.50 cents
7 glass 1.75 cents
I figure that was not much of a deal so I said I was only going to have one. The other boy then took a plastic glass and a jar from underneath the counter and started pouring lemonade barely past the halfway mark. I was a bit surprised but I decided not to say anything and instead, I requested a second glass.
I then proceeded to pay and as I reach in my front pocket, I realize that I left all my change on the kitchen table. So I reach in my back pocket and pulled a 5 dollars bill. Pandemonium, the boys each pulled a calculator and the little girl pulled out a pad and a pencil. It took two good minutes before they compared notes and none of them had it right. I proceeded and explained to them that a 5 dollars bill is like five hundred cents and that if they were to subtract the fifty-cent that I owe then, they should give me $4.50 back in change. Unsure, they continued calculating and unable to come up with anything, they decide to trust the person in front of them. One of the boys pulled a bucket and started giving me my change. One-dollar. Two dollars, three dollars, Four dollars, Twenty-five, Fifty, I then thanked them, took my two glasses and left.
So, do you think that those kids had fun that day? Well for starter, I know that they didn't get any help from any grownups other than nails and planks. How do I know? Check the price list: there was no rebate on quantity (Marketing). Next, the reason why the boy was barely pouring glasses halfway had certainly something to do with the fact that they realize that if they were going to serve full glasses, they were not going to make any money (Inventory and pricing).
They also discovered that they were ill equipped to handle big bills (cash management and accounting) and that some people spoke languages other than English (Customer service). The fact is that operating a lemonade stand requires the knowledge and understanding necessary to sell a product or service albeit not as refined as big corporations but you have to have all your basis covered.
So do you think that those kids had a lot of fun that day? Absolutely not. But do you think that this was a good experience for them? Yes, running a lemonade stand is one of the best introductory experience to business for kids that one ever devised. This is also very difficult for 6 or 7 year olds, as they have to grasp concepts and principles that were foreign to them. It is also important for the parents, who are probably wealthy, to put their kid through this as they will develop the basic knowledge and understanding and a basis for conversation. Those kid are now growing up in a family environment that talks business everyday and it was important for the parents to prepare them for business in order, maybe, to pass the business down through generations.
It takes balls for parents and for kids to forfeit a beautiful Sunday afternoon of fun and play by the poolside and send them, with little supervision, out there in unknown territory.
It is surprising to discover how important and influential parents are to the orientation of kids. Since kids only want to emulate their parents, it is easily understandable why, for example, that kids who have seen their white collar parents work all their life for a living will rely on education to get a fine job for their own subsistence while those kids from the lemonade stand, with knowledge gathered on the street, will know nothing or will never want to hear about working nine-to-five for a living. They are now trained and will grow up in an environment that will teach them that others are supposed to work for them�it is their reality and this is what it will be. For them, life will be about leading others and certainly not working for them.
So, do you want your kids to be slaves or slave drivers? As unappealing as it may sound, you have to make a choice between those two.
© 2006 Bernard Malouin
Bernard Malouin | Montreal, Quebec, Canada | E-mail