Leadership and Selling Lemonade

By | April 29, 2019

[April 29, 2019] My pre-teen years involved working at several small jobs that taught me many things. Among those was the ability to work with others, pick who could be trusted, and learn about the limits of your friends. One summer, a friend of mine and I were going to make lots of money selling lemonade.

Ben Carson, an American politician, once said that a “key to leadership is recognizing that everybody has gifts and talents, but the good leader knows how to harness those gifts.” My friend Wilson was a great friend but terrible at selling our product. Our business venture suffered but, as two 9-year olds, we stuck it out for the summer and made a few dollars.

I remember, vividly, the oppressive heat and humidity of northeast Louisiana, that my mom helped by making some of the lemonade, and that many of the young men who came by had pity on us (they bought our lemonade). Our best customers were young mothers, men who worked locally, and an occasional “older” person. This was a time when a nickel was a lot of money, so kids were not buying.

Here’s what that summer taught me about leadership:

  1. A good leader can discover talent in people, but they also have to know how to use that talent.1
  2. If you want to be successful in any business, you have to stick to it and not give up.
  3. Friends don’t necessarily make good business partners.
  4. Relying on the pity of others won’t cut it.
  5. You have to sell the right stuff and at the right time.
  6. A smile and a “thank you” goes a long way for repeat customers.
  7. Money isn’t everything (that idea was a long way in coming to me).
  8. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask mom (or someone smarter than you) for help.

I think that I was a bit lazy as a kid. Many small jobs came and went; like cleaning guns for my dad’s friends. It’s a great way to learn many lessons. For me, the best lessons were those that made me suffer. That way I learned and didn’t forget.

Did I learn from the experience? Yes. The main lesson was that I could have been having a lot of fun instead of selling lemonade. That was the last time we did that. Later, as a parent, my daughter sold lemonade in our family’s front yard. She lasted a little longer than my friend Wilson and me.


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-leadership-means-identifying-talented-leaders/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Leadership and Selling Lemonade

  1. Eric Coda

    Learning to balance responsibility is one of the most crucial life’s skills. Having a job and school at the same time, along with family responsibilities, is the trick to learning to do well in life. Too many kids reject ‘work’ and would rather just hang out or play video games.

  2. Max Foster

    Balancing work with classes, homework, extracurricular activities, and just hanging out with friends can be tough, but millions of young kids are able to manage part-time work along with their other responsibilities. It’s about growing up in a society that values hard work, keeping out of trouble, staying in good physical shape, and learning about life.

  3. Mr. T.J. Asper

    An example that we all can relate to. This is how I teach my High School students, with examples from my past.

    1. Eric Coda

      I wish I’d had HS teachers who had used personal, down-to-earth examples instead of making me memorize everything for the test. Plus, they taught what they thought would be on the SAT exams and other things they believed the state required. They didn’t teach what was necessary for a good education and to live a good life by.

    2. Maureen S. Sullivan

      This is why getting a job as a kid is more important today than ever. It teaches the basics of living, while school teaches very few practical lessons.

  4. Andrew Dooley

    Thanks! Another worthy article. It’s always a good start to the day when I read informative, entertaining articles on leadership.

  5. The Kid 1945

    Yeah, growing up has its challenges and that is the point. If you want to be a better person, get a job. What this really means is learning about responsibility. Those who learn that being responsible has many advantages (also later in life), then they will have an easier time of it as a grown up.

    1. Greg Heyman

      “Responsibility” is what this is all about. My opinion anyway. Responsibility is the single best metric that is associated with satisfaction in life. No responsibility is what many young people strive for. They are miserable people. Ever meet one? Just go to any college campus and find it overflowing.

  6. Georgie M.

    I also had many jobs growing up. It taught me the value of money and a hard-won lesson that money from my parents was not something to take for granted. That’s why I never got an allowance that was just a freebie. I had to earn all that I wanted to spend.

    1. AutisticTechie

      I made a lot of money (for me as a 7-10-year-old) mowing yards for my neighbors. They were happy to get the job done cheap and I was happy to make $2 per yard.

      1. JT Patterson

        If a kid likes to swim, lifeguarding can be a great summer job for kids. They’ll get to spend time outdoors at the beach or the pool. Also, if there are indoor pools in your area, kids can also become lifeguard during the winter months.

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      ….. and we are better adults for this same reason.

      1. Roger Yellowmule

        I worked at a car wash. Hard job physically. But it got me in good shape and I had a blast. Lots of good looking girls came by. Met my future wife at the car wash.

    3. Wilson Cox

      If you have a car and a good driving record, you can get a job delivering pizzas. Delivery drivers don’t get paid very much, but they do receive tips.

  7. Janna Faulkner

    Boys and girls generally have different types of jobs growing up and the fact that they do have ‘jobs’ is a good thing. Having a job helps develop character and teaches valuable lessons. Just as you have noted here, lessons are often hard won.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      This is why fewer young boys and girls today don’t have jobs. They are too busy on their games console than worrying about making a few dollars and learning what it takes to be a better grownup.

      1. Len Jakosky

        Ain’t that the truth. Sad but a fact of modern life. Last winter I asked a bunch of boys passing my house to shovel the snow and I’d give them $50. They told me to f-off. Curious reaction since I only had a small walk-way.

  8. Army Captain

    Your mini-series on “leadership and …” is very interesting and entertaining.

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