Quite a lot. A lot more than I thought possible. So my boy's scooter goes missing, probably liberated after being left outside our house in the evening. For the benefit of those without young kids, in 2016 when you're 7, your scooter is everything. It ranks right up there with oxygen, YouTube and cookies. But rather than get angry with the world and mope about the house (that was my my role) he asked himself these questions:
1. How much will a new scooter cost?
2. What can I do to get money to buy one?
3. How quickly can I get mum to help me make cookies for me to sell?
Bless him; he'd already figured out that a scooter wasn't going to reappear funded by the bank of Dad. I know what you're thinking: 'Is this going to be one of those smug parent blog posts, dripping on about how great his kids are?' I mean he impressed the hell out of me, but it's not a vomit article, I promise.
Lesson 1: The principle of changing focus
As adults we waste time on 'how did this happen,' 'whose fault is it' and my favourite which was drive around the streets looking for teenagers to threaten. The last one was moderately enjoyable, but not that helpful.
H's approach, by asking himself 'how do I make this better?' meant his creative brain spent time solving problems rather than getting 'aggy.'
Long story short, we buy the ingredients, he bakes cookies and then with a plastic box and a handmade sign he immediately embarks on the most brutal sales approach of them all - door to door cold-calling.
Lesson 2: The principle of no fear
This isn't about confidence, he's quite the introvert. It's just that he hasn't been uploaded with the adult apps: fear of being judged 1.0, or the fear of rejection 1.1. The fact that someone might say 'no' had zero impact on his willingness to act. If they say 'no,' I'll just knock another door was his attitude. He was happy to ask for sales until he got the results he wanted. The third batch, was perfect and he made £6.05. Only £122.95 to go. Good dollar when you're seven.
Lesson 3: The principle of immediate action
Most start-ups we meet don't take this kind of action. He didn't delay for a second. He went from concept to cookie sales in less than four hours. He had 10x'd his sales within 24 hours. We meet people who spend months writing business plans.
Lesson 4: The principle of persistence
He was hit with several examples of PDSS Syndrome (Parent Delaying Tactic for Sanity). 'Not yet,' 'maybe later,' etc but he was undeterred. He did not stop asking until the cookies were baking. The relentless persistence in the face of setbacks and reluctant stakeholders was a thing of beauty (and parental irritation).
Lesson 5: The principle of simplicity
So I helped him make a website which took about an hour and he pressed publish without hesitation. No doubts of 'it's not ready,' or 'I haven't got a logo' or the 'paypal buttons don't line up.' Then this happens:
H: "But how will people find it?"
Me: "We have to tell people it's there."
H: "How do we do that?"
Me: "We have to tell all the people you've sold cookies to and get mum to post it on Facebook."
H: "Can we do it now?"
Lesson 6: The principle of the narrative
No-one wants to read another dull Facebook post about their perfect children baking perfect cookies in their perfect family life except for Granny and the favourite Aunty.
But the story as to WHY he sold cookies was where the power of the business really sat. It made the wife share it with her Facebook friends (which led to more than £50 of sales and donations, which had a 10x effect on his first sales trip).
It was the story that helped him leverage angel investment without a business plan or sales targets (me, £30 worse off for the ingredients) and secure a volunteer cookie chef who wants the experience (the wife) and together they bake. The story also helped him secure two volunteer sales assistants who worked for free, whom he later rewarded with a cookie and a cheeky grin.
How to get to the story of your business? It's all about what people will want to tell their friends once they've bought. It's not the bag they're buying, it's the story of how it was made, or the designer who made it. It's not the cafe or the lattes they're buying, it's the story of how it began. It's not the cookies they're buying, it's how they came to exist.
So the seven lessons; change your focus. Ignore your fear. Take immediate action. Be persistent. Be utterly simple in your approach. Tell the story. Oh, and lesson 7 - look after your scooter.