It’s a beautiful day. On the corner sits a candy shop. Outside the shop is a neatly-painted sign — “Candy Shop. We sell candy.” Inside is a clerk, preparing for the day. A customer enters.
The clerk speaks. “How may I help you? We have some new flavors of chocolate, we have some delicious licorice, and, if you’re not too interested in keeping your teeth, we have some scrumptious rock candy.”
The customer looks around. “You know, that sounds great, but what I’d really like, what I’m really looking for, is some ribs for my barbeque this weekend.”
The store clerk is taken aback. “Ribs? I don’t think anyone’s ever asked for ribs before. We sell candy.”
The customer shrugs. “But I don’t need candy. What I need is ribs. Can you help me?”
The clerk thinks for a second. “I don’t know. Never thought about it. But—I guess I could try to help you out with something. We are a store after all and we’d like to increase our business. When do you need this by?”
“I’m having a barbeque on Saturday. Could I pick them up Friday?”
The clerk says, “Today’s Tuesday. I can have it ready for you then. A couple pounds enough?”
Flash forward two months. Same candy store, same clerk, same customer entering. Outside is the same neatly-painted sign — “Candy Shop. We sell candy.”—but now stuck to the sign is a hand-written note — “We also sell ribs.”
The customer enters. “Hey. How’s it going?”
“Great,” the clerk says. “Are you interested in some candy today, or would you like some ribs?”
“Nope,” the customer says. “I don’t need any candy. I don’t need any ribs. Today I need something more formal. I was thinking fish would be nice, maybe some smoked salmon.”
The clerk looks a bit indignant. “I already made an exception for you. I sold you the ribs. I don’t know about fish. I had to install a freezer and I put in a smoking unit and an extra sink for food prep in addition to all the stuff I had for candy.”
Sounds perfect,” says the customer. “You’ve got everything you need—the smoker, the freezer. So what do you say? Smoking’s smoking, right? It’s not like I’m asking you to fix my toaster. It’s salmon, for Pete’s sake.”
The clerk think about it for a minute. Yes, he has the freezer and the smoker. Who knows? Maybe some other people would be interested in salmon. He’s always keen to increase business.
“Okay,” the clerk says. “I’ll have some salmon for you by the weekend.”
Flash forward two months.
Same shop. Same clerk inside. Outside is the same neatly-painted sign—“Candy Stop. We sell candy.” — with same hand-written note — “We also sell ribs.” But now, underneath the note is a sticky note — “Smoked salmon too.” The same customer enters.
“What can I do for you?” the clerk asks. “We have some chocolate-covered cherries, some juicy ribs, and some fresh smoked salmon.”
The customer says, “Hey, you know what I really need help with? It’s not even food. I have this electric toaster that’s broken, and I was thinking. Since you have a lot of equipment around here, and you probably work on it all the time, you must be a handy guy. I figured you could fix this toaster for me.”
The clerk looks puzzled. “We’ve never fixed toasters here.”
“Why not? Shoot, I bet you could do a thriving business in electric toasters. Everyone needs that service. You could hire some people on. I hear the electric toaster business is good these days.”
“I don’t know,” the clerk says. He looks at the toaster. It’s just like one he’s got in back that he fixed last month, and he always wants to increase his business. It wouldn’t be that big a deal. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll do it. Can you come back in a few days?”
“Sure,” the customer says. “I appreciate it.”
Fast forward three months.
It’s the same store with the same neatly-painted sign with the same hand-painted sign with the same sticky note. Scribbled on the sticky note are the words, “We can fix your toaster.” In the window hangs another sign — “Gone Out of Business.”
There’s the same customer and the same clerk. Now they are outside on the sidewalk talking.
The customer says, “Man, I just can’t figure it out? You sold such good candy!”
In life, if you aren’t clear about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you’ll likely end up doing a lot of things you have no business doing.