Lemons or Lemonade

It was Saturday afternoon when I hopped in my car to run errands.  The thermostat in the car told me the temperature was a cool 93 degrees, but the sensation of walking into a sauna told me that the humidity in Atlanta was much higher.  As I put my basket of dry cleaning in the car I heard a little girl’s voice call out, “Lemonade!  Lemonade for sale!”  I looked over my shoulder and at the entrance of the next block were two sisters with a table, a pitcher, and a few plastic cups.  The younger of the two girls was clearly in charge of advertising, as she hopped up and down, yelling at passing cars to let them know the sale was on.

I grabbed my wallet and walked over to get a cup of lemonade for the road.  “Good afternoon ladies, I would like a glass.  How much is it?”  I remember how much my lemonade stand used to be, but with inflation, I had already located a $1.00 bill to hand to the little girls.

The oldest sister went directly into her sales pitch, “Our lemonade is fresh squeezed and is 25 cents.  We are also donating 25% to the local Humane Society.”

I have to say at that point I was actually shocked.  Here were two girls, who the oldest could not have been more than 7 years old, offering me a product of value.  The cost of the lemons and sugar that their parents purchased could not have been covered by the meager 25 cents per glass and yet on top of this, these little girls were donating 25% to a charity.

I smiled at the little girl and said, “Oh that’s wonderful.  I don’t have any change so I’m going to give you a whole dollar and you can keep the extra money.”

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The Why Question: Part 2

4.5 years into working at my consulting job another change came.  My father called to tell me that the family business was having problems.  The accounting software just wasn’t cutting it anymore.  The company had outgrown the simple software he had purchased years ago and tracking inventory with a piece of paper wasn’t helping either.  It was a hard decision, but I ultimately left my consulting job, with its comfy salary, fancy clothes, and Flavia coffee makers to head back to my home town to help the family business.

At that point in time the question “Why?” was asked a lot.  So naturally, I thought again about my goals.  Once again, in a car ride with my parents, my mom asked “Have you thought anymore about applying for your MBA?”  I talked with my parents that evening about a program my friend at the consulting firm had mentioned once and said it sounded pretty interesting.  “What school is it with?” Mom asked.  “Duke.” I replied.  “Well, you’ve always wanted to go there.  Why don’t you check it out?”

So that evening when we got home I opened up my computer and searched for “Duke MBA”.  There it was.  The Cross Continent MBA program.  I checked out the essay questions and there it was, the dreaded “Why?” question.  This time though there were light bulbs going off.  If I had my MBA the task of growing the company from a small start-up to a national and international brand would not be as daunting.  If I had a better understanding of the markets in China and India, the two places where our parts are manufactured, I could help ease the dealings with our partners and get a better quality product for our customers.  If I understand the markets in Europe, South America, and Middle East, then the potential to market our product overseas would open up.  There was one why question answered.

Why now?  Well that makes sense too.  The company is on the verge of growing.  If I graduate in 16 months the foundation for the growth will be solid and my MBA could then propel the company to the next level smoothly.  If I wait I might miss the opportunity or the company might not make it.

Why Duke?  It fits.  It’s not just a life long goal, it’s the logical choice.  I can keep working and growing the company and my career.  The markets I need to get experience with are on each of the trips.  The courses discuss the same topics I’ve sat around the dinner table with brain storming with my father about, and they’re going to be taught by the number one faculty.  When it clicks it clicks!

After that, the essay wrote itself.  The question in the interview was one I was excited to answer.  Now, I am looking back at what all started with a conversation in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  What a long road it has been, and the journey down this road is just starting.