Lessons From the Girl Scouts

By Peter Economy

They sell $800 million dollars’ worth of cookies every year, and not just to parents. Your company can learn a lot from them. In fact, so can you.

The annual Girl Scout Cookie campaign is a big business, generating sales of more than 200 million boxes of Thin Mints, Samoas, Do-Si-Dos, and other delights. That makes the Girl Scouts the Number 3 seller of cookies nationally. According to the organization’s leaders, selling those iconic cookies teaches girls five key entrepreneurial skills. Guess what? Those same skills are what will drive success at your company. Scout’s honor.

1. Set Goals

As the saying goes, “Life without goals is like a race with no finish line-;you’re just running to nowhere.” We all need goals to give focus to our lives and to help us create the plans that lead to success. However, there are right ways and wrong ways to set goals, and it’s up to you to teach your people the best ways while providing them with the information, resources, and support they need. The acronym SMART still makes sense: All goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

2. Improve Decision-Making

Everyone in business needs to make decisions big and small. Decision-making is a skill that gets better when it’s exercised. Help your people make better decisions by delegating tasks to them and granting them the autonomy they need. Start with small tasks and work up. Your employees will learn vital decision-making skills along the way while becoming more engaged in their jobs.

3. Embrace Financial Literacy

Your people should understand where revenue comes from and the role that each person plays in creating it. While salespeople are often well aware of a company’s sales figures, and how much of that total they generated, chances are that your accounts receivable clerk or your facilities manager has no idea about the figure or how the work they do contributes to it. Teach your people the key numbers for your business-;such things as revenue, income, expenses, inventory turnover, and profit-;and then be diligent about communicating them on a regular basis, ideally every week.

4. Emphasize People Skills

Business is all about people, and building strong and positive relationships with coworkers, vendors, customers, and members of the community in which you do business. While some people are naturals when it comes to interacting with others, some are not. Provide your employees with opportunities to build their people skills by working in teams that have the authority to do valuable work and make important decisions. They will learn valuable people skills along the way.

5. Put Ethics First

Every business should be built on a firm foundation of honesty and ethical values. The best way to achieve this is to model these behaviors yourself. Be honest and transparent in all your employee, customer, and vendor interactions, and be very clear to your people that you expect them to behave in exactly the same way. Be sure to praise employees for doing the right thing, and make it a part of the performance appraisal process.

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