Business Lessons from the Cub Scouts

28 10 2011

When we decided to sign up for Cub Scouts, I thought it would be a great way for my son to make some friends, learn cool things, go camping, and maybe even get a pocket knife – sweet!  What I didn’t expect was a business lesson.

The Cub Scouts raise money for activities and uniforms by selling popcorn and coffee.  Their sales team of little tykes does the heavy lifting.  As my son and I prepared for popcorn duty, I noticed his reluctance.  Sell popcorn?  On a Saturday morning???  “Dad, can’t we go fishing?” he asked, hoping to convince me to change my mind.  I laughed as he tried to make his first sale of the day.  0 for 1.

We picked up our supplies from the Pack leader’s house – a table, a money box, a sign, and of course, a ton of popcorn.  We set up as instructed in front of the Cups & Cones ice cream shop on a hot summer day.  Not liking our odds, I gave him some instructions and we got started.  I watched his little mind slowly understand the process, and I could not help but notice the simple business lessons he was learning – lessons that could be applied to any business.

  • Be nice.  He didn’t open with a sales pitch – he opened the door for people and said “Good morning.”  Only after they exited did he approach them – already having started the relationship by contributing something positive.
  • Ask the right questions.  He asked “Would you like to support the Cub Scouts?” not “Would you like to buy some popcorn?”  A sale is made when an emotional connection is created.  Don’t sell features – ask questions that mean something.
  • Play the percentages.  No matter how cute you look in your little uniform, people are still going to say no.  He didn’t just approach the people that appeared interested, he talked to everyone.  If you want to be successful, multiply your efforts and broaden your audience.
  • Be transparent.  When he opened the door for people they recognized that he was warming them up – afterall, he was standing in front of a table full of popcorn and a sign with prices.  One lady asked if that’s why he opened the door for her.  He said yes.  On her way out, she bought a $16 bag, the biggest we had.  You can’t gain trust if you try to hide your intentions.
  • Motivate.  He sold $100 worth of popcorn that day.  I told him how proud I was, and the Pack mother said he did a great job.  He was excited to do it again.  If people are working hard to help you achieve your goals, then show your appreciation, offer incentives, and give praise for a job well done.
  • People, Products & Process.  He had success by being personable, selling a quality product, and following a simple, effective process.  You might have good people and good products but no process that drives results.  Or you might have good products and a good process but the wrong people.  You must have all three to be successful.

Thank you Cub Scouts for showing us such valuable lessons.

Now, when do we get that pocketknife?



7 responses

28 10 2011

Awesome post, again. You have a future as a motivational speaker and author, my dear. I miss the family and am bummed I can’t buy your popcorn!

28 10 2011
Brad White

Thanks Jenn. Next year I’m going to teach him how to build a website so he can learn about online marketing – we’ll go global and you can buy from anywhere!

28 10 2011
Mike Nelson

Having lived the Scouting life with Chris, this really hit home. Two references for you: THE video you need to see, “Down and Derby”

For THE “knife” for the “travelling man” check out the new Leatherman PS. It is WAY COOL and is TSA approved. Want to make it into a knife? Use one blade of the scissors.

When you come out this way, we will share the video Chris made of Cory’s Pinewood Derby race experience.

You rock,

28 10 2011
Brad White

W can’t wait for Pinewood derby!! I’ve been practicing since he was born.

28 10 2011
Dan Collins


That’s about as good as it gets. I’m not the least surprised ~ but it still made me smile. What was the best line for me in this post? “You can’t gain trust if you try to hide your intentions.” Do me a favor and shake young Bryce’s hand for me. (Give him an ‘atta boy’ as well).

Keep up the great work ‘pops’


30 10 2011

From Grandma: What a sweet post!! Who wouldn’t buy from that adorable little Cub Scout?

8 11 2011
Dale White

I am so proud of both of my boys, I have been in sales for over 30 years and you point out the basics things I need to be reminded of. Thanks Bryce for being the wide eyed cub scout with so much to learn about life and thanks again Brad for being the thoughtful Dad you are and the wonderful insite you share with this blog about life in general and how it relates to sales. Grandpa Dale

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