Friday, November 14, 2008

The Seven Key Ingredients to Building an Organization

Building a business or a charity involves seven key ingredients:

Sweat Equity
The Competitive Edge ( or Staying 15 minutes ahead)

Somehow without reading a single Jim Collin’s book or attending any conferences my son Chase has figured this out. This is the story of how a ten year old can build a successful business on sheer instinct.


Make $20 per week (measurable) to buy a Play Station 3 (big vision) before the Christmas holidays (timebound).


Pull out the wagon and gather bottles from recycling bins. Take those bottles to the corner store and cash them in for truckloads of cash. (I think this is technically illegal but don’t tell anyone, we are all learning a lot here.)

Chase’s first task was to create a map of our village and a list of all the people he felt would give him the best return for his effort. (Okay he scoped out the heavy drinkers – beer and wine bottles have significant deposits attached to them in Ontario)

Then he marked those houses with an “X” on the map so he could strategically hit them first. Most money for least effort.

There is also a sheet that documents, his time, the number of bottles and the amount of cash. To measure his ROI – obviously.


Three weeks ago Chase spent a Sunday afternoon cleaning up our storage space to create an office. He has a bulletin board, telephone (it doesn’t work but its there), supplies, desk – basic business stuff. His map and list are up on the wall for easy reference.


He negotiated a “partnership” with his older sister Skye (12). Since she didn’t contribute to the plan or the grunt work of the space he wanted to offer her 35%. She felt her sweat equity of helping him return the bottles was worth 50%. He needed her to go to the store for the first time and she bought him an iced tea so he caved. (There is certain finesse to being as successful as possible with the least amount of effort but that is another blog, person and story)

One week later when returning home from work very late and very tired, Chase told me “She can’t take a leave of absence once my business started really rolling so I fired her!”

That’s an actual quote by the way. Apparently, the partnership didn’t work out.

She says: “I just wanted fair pay.”
He says: “This is a child’s business not government” (another blog…)

Sweat Equity

For three weeks now every Friday morning, my son bounces out of bed at 6:30 am grabs his wagon and walks around our village in the dark stealing stuff from recycle boxes. I have refused to go with him for obvious reasons.

On Friday after school he hauls his load to the corner store where they take his bottles and give him money. So far he has earned $25.00. (plus the $6.30 he paid Skye the first week)

This is a huge job for a ten year old. In fact when I spoke to the manager of the store today he indicated that he felt sorry for Chase hauling such a heavy load in every week. I reassured Darren (the store manager) No need to feel sorry for him, he’s a capitalist!

The Competitive Edge

Part A: The original plan was to go out Thursday night before anyone else went through the boxes. On the first Thursday Chase quickly realized that this wouldn’t work since most people put their boxes out either later than he is awake or in the morning. So he has chosen 6:30 am the next day when it is still dark – so his competitors can’t see him – and the boxes are already out.

Part B: There are some boys who were already doing this over the summer. Chase doesn’t go down their street because he doesn’t want them to know he has entered the market.


The “competition” is onto him. When challenged about his business, while playing video games together, they discussed territory issues. The details of that meeting are unclear to me. No one took minutes and I'm sure Robert's Rules were not followed. However, one hour ago Chase told me he is thinking of getting into the odd jobs business and asked if I would help him design a flyer. The conversation started with Chase saying:

“I think I’m going to get out of the recycling business.” “Why?” I asked. “Too much competition.”

In Summary

The past three weeks has included a little stomping through the kitchen, a few tears, moderate violent actions, some deep breathing and sheer determination. Haven’t we all felt that way at times? Wouldn’t it be great if we were ten and could openly express it?

I’m lucky to live with a ten year old capitalist; it will save me a lot of money on books and conferences.

Thank you for spending time with me today,

PS Written with permission and posted with the approval of the 10 year old capitalist

PPS Skye thought of the title…she wanted me to say that.

PPPS Yes our house has an “X” on the map!


  1. Gee, how I wish Chase had been around ten years ago when I was running my agency in London. I would have made him CEO, then wouldn't have had to hand the business over to those much less competent management buyout schmucks who ran the company into the ground then sold it for spare parts.

    Oh well. At least there is hope for the future.

    Maybe Barack Obama needs a business adviser who can kick-start a new economic boom. Chase sounds the guy...


  2. Dear Hamish,

    I'm sorry Chase wasn't walking, talking or eating solid food when all that happened.

    He is now though...and is about $325.00 away from if you (or anyone) needs a consultant you can reach him through me.

    Thanks for your comment

  3. This is an outstanding insight. And well written. Plus it doesn't just draw on Collins but Michael Porter too.
    Can I hire him?
    Bernard Ross

  4. Thank you Bernard,

    Sorry though - It is now "drinking season" so business is thriving and the competition has lost interest. Besides, Hamish McInvoice has already spoken for him.

    Now to go find out who Michael Porter is!