I have a seven-year-old nephew who lives in the southwest of Ireland. Visitors to that part of the world are often surprised to see palm trees and bamboos growing – until a local explains how the gulf stream comes up from the south bringing warmth with it.
In truth, the climate in Ireland – particularly the southwest – is very temperate, if a little moist; rarely does the mercury dip below freezing, or at least that was the case until last winter. The big freeze that hit Europe, hit Ireland pretty badly. The lowest temperatures on record were experienced across the country. Thermometers registered -17C / 2F. It was pretty cold. And all the palm trees died, which bring me back to Richard, my 7 year old nephew.
Richard came across a pile of dead and dried out bamboo shoots in his backyard, remnants of a failed rescue operation on the frost damaged trees. He decided that these dead and dried out bamboo shoots would be very useful to start a fire. Surely, he thought, someone in the neighborhood would want these bamboo shoots. They must be worth 10c each. Remember, he is seven!
So, without any further ado, or conveniently forgetting to tell his parents, off went Richard knocking on each neighbor’s door selling bamboo shoots. His mother was horrified. His father was ridiculously proud, and, as the now-becoming-painfully-smug father tells the story, Richard identified his target market, figured out his go-to-market strategy, priced his product to meet market demand, and shifted 47 units in a market coup for a total revenue achievement of €4.70.
I met this commercial goliath recently (Richard, not the father).
“How did you know which of the neighbors would buy the sticks?” I asked.
“It was cold, right?” he said.
“Yes.” I replied.
“So, anybody who has a fireplace lights a fire when it is cold, right?
“Yes.” I replied.
“SO, when I saw the smoke coming out of the chimney, I decided that person needed to buy my sticks for their next fire.”
He looked at me a little askance, as if to say, ”And your company is supposed to help people with this stuff?”
Richard continued “I would only call to the house where they had a real fire with real smoke, ‘cos the other people just press the switch to heat the house, and they don’t need sticks to light the fire, and then I’d just be wasting my time.”
Oh, that we all qualified as ruthlessly.