My home office, which was once filled with sports memorabilia and inspirational photos, has slowly evolved into a combo business place and play room. It’s as though someone sprinkled preschool seeds and the native plants have been choked out. Walls are now adorned with paintings from school and shelves have been overrun by toys and books. Is my office also her play space, or is her play space also my office?
Well, today it served as office for both of us. At 4 and a half years old, Lydia has little knowledge of the concepts of working or money, and I don’t expect her to. But now we have taken our first step in what will be years of tiny lessons. Today, from humble beginnings, in the back corner of my office, Lydia’s Lemonade and Cookie stand was born.
Excitement was at its peak as we prepared our food, drink and signage. As we finally opened for business, she was glowing with pride.
Then the experiential lessons of business began to materialize.
The economic outlook of the market was that it would be challenging. The good news was that she has no competition, but the bad news was that I was the only customer.
Her service skills are fantastic. No sooner was my cup empty than it was being filled again. I didn’t want to tell her that I get horrible indigestion from acidic drinks, so after a half-carafe of liquid fire juice, I was scrambling for Rolaids.
Her inventory management, on the other hand, needs some refining. She was consuming her cookie stock at an alarming rate.
Moreover, her first experience with currency exchange didn’t fare well, as she reversed the traditional model: She was paying me to drink her lemonade and to eat her cookies. I felt a bit cheap taking the money from her, but hey, experience is the best teacher.
The rigors of work finally wore Lydia down and she moved on to playing with her doctor kit. That was a shame. If she had done more market research, she would have realized that in ten minutes Mom would walk in the door, doubling her consumer pool.
Surprisingly enough (or maybe not), throughout the day Lydia displayed the behaviors that many adult business owners exhibit.
They get excited about something new but don’t really gauge the need. They squander their own stock. They pay customers to take their product or service by underestimating the true costs and not pricing accordingly. Finally, once the ordeals of day-to-day business set in, they slow down and give up — sometimes right before their market finally matures.
One of the big draws for me in running my own business is that it’s something that I may be able to hand down to Lydia someday, if she wants it. Until then, a few lessons will also need to be handed down to get her to the point where she knows what to do.
For now, I’m hoping Lydia’s new business will be open again tomorrow. I just ordered a pound of Rolaids and I’m ready to go.