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I started my first business back in 1982. I was a passion-driven 7-year-old living in Arkansas, and I just knew that I could make a small fortune selling worms from a small roadside stand to the local fishermen for cheaper than the bait shop down the road.

On the day of my “grand opening,” I woke up early and went outside to dig up those big, wiggly worms that were sure to earn me enough to buy a stable for my My Little Pony collection.

Boy, let me tell you, it sure was hard digging up so many worms. Turns out those little bastards don’t like to be caught!

I finally got a dozen or so, put them in some dirt in a jar and hung my sign up on my worm stand.

Worms Cheap Sign - Smart Business Lessons

WORMS CHEAP, it read.

And I sat. And sat. Aaaand sat. Do you know how many worms I sold?


At the time, I was perplexed. Why didn’t anyone want my worms? What was I doing wrong?

Looking back, I realize exactly what I did wrong. I jumped head first into this business idea, with no real idea who my market was, or if there even was a market for worms. I just assumed there was, because the bait shop down the road carried them, but that doesn’t mean they were selling many.

Learning from my previous mistakes

Luckily, as a headstrong 7 year old, I didn’t let my failure discourage me, and it didn’t take long for my next idea to take shape.

It was August, and August in Arkansas is f-ing hot. Like fry an egg on the sidewalk hot. Like Bradley Cooper hot.

Bradley Cooper Hot

There was a new apartment building being built on my street, and I noticed that everyone on the construction crew was all sweaty. I thought, “I bet they’d like some Kool-Aid.” So I walked over and asked them if they might want some.

The yeses were unanimous, and although some might argue that it had more to do with the fact that I was a cute kid than their actually wanting to drink a sugar-filled drink laden with Red No. 10, I beg to differ. They were thirsty, the drinks were cold, and I had found (and validated) my niche before wasting time making something nobody wanted.

You see, I wasn’t selling Kool-Aid. I was selling ice-cold relief from the heat.

I made $13.50 selling Kool-Aid that day for a quarter a cup. That’s 54 sales.

In fact, so many of them wanted to buy from me that I ran out of cups. And rather than just calling it quits for the day until I could get more paper cups, I struck while the iron was hot, and I ran to my house, grabbed a few glasses from our kitchen, and served drinks in those, telling the crew they had to drink fast because I had to reuse the same glass for the next person!  (To be honest, I didn’t even rinse them between uses — but they didn’t even care!)

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Figure out what your customers desperately need, validate your idea, then deliver the solution to them on a silver platter (or in a paper cup).

The concept is so simple a 7-year-old can do it — yet most of us never grasp this hugely important concept. The one that could make or break your business.

Don’t sell products. Sell solutions.

Don't sell products. Sell solutions. Click To Tweet

If you implement this business lesson, my friends, I guarantee you’ll see better results in your business. It’s truly the golden ticket that gives you an all-access pass to the hearts and minds of your customers, and when you get there, they’ll happily snatch up anything you’re selling and they won’t care about the price…

…or if it comes in a re-used glass.

Leave a comment below with your best childhood lessons!