(Really) Young Entrepreneurs

Thou shall not pass without buying some lemonade or iced tea

My kids are always starting businesses. They aren’t often successful businesses, but I love their effort and their indomitable spirit.

The lemonade business has been pretty good, but only when they time it right. The front-yard restaurant was surprisingly successful despite them selling only imaginary food. But the rock business! That one was horrible.

Both my kids love rocks. They don’t love rocks so much that they’d be willing to buy one, but their love for rocks is so strong that they believe other people would gladly pay 50¢ for any one of the small stones they’ve pulled from the creek behind our house.

Two winters ago, when the lemonade business wasn’t really a good option, they set up their rock stand and tried selling to passers-by. Whenever anyone would get close, Alex would shout, “Rocks for sale! Get your cool rocks here!”

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough foot traffic for them to get any real traction, so they decided to take their game on the road. They bagged up the rocks, and started walking around the neighborhood. I tagged along.

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Things get great when anyone can quit at any time

Peter Gray, The Play Deficit

For the last few years, I’ve been telling myself that I’d like every single person in our company to have the abilities, freedom, and opportunity to leave our company at any time, but have our company culture be so strong that no one wants to.

Lenore Skenazy and Abby Schacter recently led me to a wonderful article by Peter Gray that articulated that aspiration in a way far better than I ever could.

Some backstory: since becoming a parent, I’ve followed (and been inspired by) Gray’s articles. As my wee ones have grown to become fully-formed little people, and the wonder of the wide wide world becomes as important and influential to them as the comfort of our cozy home, my appreciation for his writings grows.

Cultivating a strong company culture is similar to cultivating a strong culture at home, but there are some notable differences. One of the biggest is that adults can generally leave a company, and children can’t really leave a home. But in children’s play anyone can withdraw at anytime.

Schacter quotes Gray:

The reason why play is such a powerful way to impart social skills is that it is voluntary. Players are always free to quit, and if they are unhappy they will quit. Every player knows that, and so the goal, for every player who wants to keep the game going, is to satisfy his or her own needs and desires while also satisfying those of the other players, so they don’t quit….

That’s exactly what we’re working toward with our company culture.

As grownups, we have the added challenges of creating value for our customers and making some money along the way so that we all get to keep coming back to play another day.


Every parent of a son should read The Wonder of Boys

Being a parent of a son and a daughter, I’m regularly amazed at the differences in how my children develop and view the world. Those experiences, along with some recent articles discussing the relative merits of masculinity and femininity in our culture, have gotten me digging into the topic of boys.

I’m only a couple chapters into listening to Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Boys (2006), and I am already blown away. The bulk of what I’ve heard so far addresses the unique, inalienable, and inextricable ways in which males (especially boys) process information, emotions, and the world around us. As a parent (and a man), I find it fascinating, useful, informative, and compelling. Read the rest of this entry »