The lessons of a 14 year old businessman
Like all 14 year olds, I had big dreams and wanted all the finer things in life, including big stereos, the latest games consoles and all the games, the newest trainers, a celeb style wardrobe and the latest Sony Walkman. However, the difference was that I was prepared to do something about it and not wait around for hand outs.
I initially gained a huge lesson from my father; my dad runs a small local building company and his biggest challenge was finding a reliable workforce. As such, me and my big mouth offered to go to work with him for the reward of £20 a day. I swept up, tidied tools, cleared away rubbish, mixed cement, made teas and above all else was incredibly considerate of the environment I was working in. By the 3rd or 4th day of working my daily wage had rose to £60 and I received a number of additional tips from customers. The lesson I had learnt was that of value. You get paid for what you do, not what you say you can do.
Seeing the world of business as a teenager is fantastic. You are free from experience and therefore full of confidence because you don’t know what you don’t know. Knowing I wanted more, I was constantly thinking of things I could do to generate more cash. I wanted something regular, where people would keep coming back and that needed little or no money to get started. I had an idea. I picked up my wallet and visited Halfords to make my investment in my very first business. I bought a bucket, sponge, chamois leather and some car shampoo. I filled my bucket with enthusiasm and set to work completely unaware of 3 of the biggest lessons I was about to be served.
Knocking on the first door, I had a set of words ready. “Excuse me, I am really sorry to bother you, but would you be interested in having your car washed?” People would answer with one of a number of responses…“No Thank you”, “Can you come back next week?” and “Yes please” were all common, however, the most popular response was always “How much?” which I very quickly realised meant “I am interested”. Yet the main lesson here was; if you don’t ask, then you don’t get.
Understanding pricing soon followed. I started off charging £3 a car and everyone was happy, so I went to £4 and nobody complained at all. However the next lessons were even more powerful. I put the price up to £4.50 and everybody started giving me a fiver! A huge increase in profits for a marginal increase in price. Only in raising the price past £5 did I realise that I had hit my ceiling as over £5 people stopped saying “yes”. When was the last time you visited your pricing.
Business was buoyant for a teenager and I was soon in a position were my income was in excess of all my fellow students and exceeding a number of teachers. However with no mobile phone, no advertising and no inbound enquiries was a little concerned about staying in control of my customers. So what I did was after ever car wash, I simply asked them when they would like it done again. Simply booking the next transaction, kept me in control and ensured that I maximised the number of opportunities from each customer.
So by my 15th birthday I was doing ok. Had all the toys a teenager could imagine. Most of the money saved for my first car and was planning my first holiday without the parents. Looking back 16 years I am surprised by the power of these lessons and what they have allowed me to achieve. So simple and yet so effective and sadly missing from so many businesses today.
That’s enough of my rant, I have another 133 lessons I have acquired and really should get my book finished and share them all properly.