The 1%: How a cubscout fundraiser is teaching everything about success in business (and life)
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
My kids are learning some amazing lessons, firsthand. Goal setting, kindness, persistence, ingenuity... and that the difference between amazing and extraordinary is often just an extra 1%.
So our cub scout pack, like many others, recently launched it's month long annual popcorn fundraiser. And despite a $250 "suggested sales target" per scout, my two scouts became instantly focused on the top prizes and recognition for top sellers... My two proverbial apples set their sights on some pretty lofty goals! Ash wants to sell $2k to earn the "Kala Waterman Ukelele" and Austin is targeting the $5.5k in sales needed to earn a coveted Nintendo switch. Never mind that he's still strategizing on how to sell his opinion that if he earns the prize it wouldn't violate our household position of "no video game consoles."
So with the kickoff and order form handout on Friday evening, my daughter was up and ready to knock on doors at 7am on Saturday. It took a little convincing that happy, rested (and caffeinated) customers would be far more likely to purchase from her, but by 9:15am we headed out... Dozens of houses, two soccer games and a family gathering later, we tallied up her impressive Day 1 total of $455 in sales. Her brother was instantly jealous that he had chosen recreation over sales that morning and they formulated a new plan to "borrow" pack inventory and set up a table at a heavily trafficked weekend location on Sunday. Though the traffic was heavy, the sales were not. Many people didn't even acknowledge them as they spoke. But rather than be discouraged by slower than expected sales, they vowed to find a better location and to do some additional door-to-door sales after dinner.
The going was hard. Many families were not home. Several said no. Others bought just one item. Despite it getting dark and being ready to head home, my daughter decided to go to one last house while my son finished up at another. Little did she (or I) know, my son had just knocked on that door. A woman had indicated she was not interested and asked him, quite sternly, not to return. As the door opened, my sweet 7 year old started her introduction as my son yelled a warning from across the road and ran to us. It was too late, however. The gentleman opening the door came out and engaged with her. He asked questions about what she was doing and why. Who did it benefit? What were her goals? Hearing my son, I started to apologize for bothering them again, unknowingly, but he politely said not to worry as my son joined the conversation, listening, with a nervous look.
The man proceeded to ask them, rhetorically, how much would it cost if he ordered one of everything. Always up for a real life math lesson, I let them humor him despite my caution around the growing size of their eyes as they added it all up, fearing that this let down might be insurmountable. They reported the $250 total and much to my surprise, he then asked if he would be allowed to order one of each item. I'm not sure if they were able to pick up their chins enough to answer, but he seemed quite pleased by their awe and excused himself to get the money. When he returned, he said, "I have a problem," and my heart sank. To say no to kids is one thing, but to lead them on so grandly only to let them down... I felt sick. He finished, "I only have $260 - not $250 as I don't have a ten dollar bill." My son jumped at explaining we had change for him. But he stopped him mid sentence and said, "I don't need change - can I donate the rest?" My little sales people were quick to say not only could it be donated to the pack, but actually, in adding up the items, they had not included the option to make a donation that sends popcorn to our troops. Immediately, he exclaimed, "Cancel my order!" As my heart skipped again, he smiled, saying "how absolutely perfect - send it all to our troops!" And just like that, they had a $260 donation order in the books. Far more than they had sold after 3 hours at a table display that morning.
Needless to say, I am one incredibly grateful mamma. And not so much for the large sale or even for the fellow gratitude shown for our troops. There are SO MANY lessons that have come out of this experience. Beyond highlighting them for my kids, they were such amazing reminders for me that I thought they were worth sharing:
Inspiration can come from the places you least expect if you are open to it. Knowing just a few bits from the message my son yelled across the street made me apprehensive about the motivations, but being open, positive and engaged created one of the most amazing experiences for our family. My kids will be telling this story for weeks and I hope it inspires others to be as generous and influential for our youth - they are the next generation of entrepreneurs, community members and citizens.
Do not mistake a failed strategy for failure. The only true way to fail is to give up. To this point, my kids were up an hour earlier than usual today to set up their table for an hour before school started at a local coffee shop. They did 3x the sales they did at their table yesterday afternoon in a quarter the amount of time... and true to my hopes, their last sale of the day, made as we were packing up 10 minutes after things had started to slow and my son suggested we could leave a little early, was by far the largest sale of the morning. Those final 3 minutes created nearly 30% of their morning sales.
Persistence, and a positive attitude are everything; success does not always come the first time around, but if you lose either one of these in the process, you'll ensure true success won't ever come. In this case, being politely persistent (and happily naive), led to the best opportunity/ potential client and the largest sale of their evening, but it was a door we "shouldn't" have knocked on. How many times do we pre-judge a situation and then assume when things fail that we had good intuition from the start? Is it possible, instead, that our expectations and resulting tone, actions, language and suggestions were actually what guided the outcome?
The difference between amazing and extraordinary can be incrementally tiny. One more house. One more dial. One more meeting. One more once-over to correct one last mistake or make one more improvement. The difference between good and great, great and excellent, excellent and amazing and amazing and extraordinary is made at the margin. Doing that extra little bit that is just beyond what others are willing to do is what sets leaders apart. Stamina, focus, determination... harnessing these to be the first in, last to go home, 100% present, 100% focused on the client. These are the slight differences that yield massively different results. Doing what everyone else does will get the results that everyone else gets. Do what no one is willing to do and you'll accomplish results that no one else is able to achieve.