I always laugh about my first business venture. It's a great story, but also reminds me of valuable business lessons learned early. When I was 12 years old I was presented a interesting opportunity. There was a family acquaintance in Texas who was selling ceramic escargot culturing pots (I kid you not). His problem was that they don't have a lot of snails in Texas... I was contracted to collect snails, put them in empty milk boxes with enough food to be shipped back to Texas. I was to get 25 cents for the large snails, 10 cents for medium and 5 cents for small. Here are some of the lessons I learned about business and scaling:
1. Take care of your customers. I decided that I would pay for shipping since I wanted to make this as streamlined as possible for my buyer. This was a hard decision for a 12 year old, but with some guidance from my business savvy step-father, it made perfect sense.
2. Take care of your product. If snails died during shipment I would not get paid - simple. Therefore, I made sure to pack the milk containers with fresh lettuce and not over crowd my precious "es"cargo. I also paid for expedited shipping to ensure safe and fast delivery of goods.
3. Maximize your opportunity (in other word - scale). After a couple of shipments, my buyer was very pleased, in fact he was in need of more snails. Unfortunately my turf was getting dry as I has scoured my neighborhood for snails at peak times. Therefore, I recruited some school friends as sub-contractors. I paid them 50% of the rate I was making and they we able to source their blocks to keep my shipments regular (we were also keeping the neighbors very happy by riding them of garden pests). One of the worst things that can happen in business is not being prepared to grow.
4. Retain profits. It's easy for a 12 year old to take what might seem like easy money and blow it on baseball cards and video games... I was making approximately $75 per 2 week shipment depending on the pull and this went on for some time. I hate to sound like a geezer, but that was a lot of money at the time and for someone my age. I have always been money conscious and knew it would be smart to save most of my earnings. It was a good move. I bought Microsoft stock at age 13 and held (later, teenage me decided a car was more important than stock so I sold MSFT at age 17, but that's another story).
Don't get me wrong, I'm no Warren Buffet or business guru. The point is that there are lessons to be learned from every level of business. Even a lemonade stand can implement the concepts above to be successful. Every business should regularly be thinking about how to scale their business appropriately for optimization. If you're not, I guarantee your competitor is. If you're in a field with no competition then YOU are the only thing holding you back. Sometimes even the snail business can move fast if you take the right approach.