Smart Cookies: 5 Business Lessons Leaders Can Learn From Girl Scouts While not all of us were lucky enough to be Girl Scouts, there's still time to build those skills in the trenches.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Building amazing leaders is a process that begins early. That's why the Girl Scouts' cookie sales program focuses on building girls up as empowered, ethical business leaders who can set and meet goals confidently. However, not all of us were lucky enough to be Girl Scouts, so now it's time to build those skills in the trenches.
Here are five skills that business leaders can learn from the Girl Scouts.
1. Realistic goal setting.
This is the starting place for the official Girl Scouts cookie sales program, and it should be the starting place for your business as well. And, as an entrepreneur, it's important that you not only set large scale goals for your entire business but also that you appropriate smaller goals that can help lead your team to success. In fact, it's the ability to meet these smaller goals that'll keep your employees motivated and confident in the long run. Realistic goal setting keeps everyone on track and excited for what comes next.
2. Collaborative decision-making.
At every juncture and crossroads in your business, success will depend on the decisions you make and the steps you take to fulfill them. And, even if you're the CEO, at the end of the day, you don't make those decisions alone. Instead, running a successful business requires you to work with others to make decisions and to trust that the team can come to a consensus about what to do.
Girl Scouts don't just hone their decision-making skills in the cookie sales process; they also use them to do the same things that you do as a business owner. For example, choosing an appropriate marketplace. Girls need to work together to discern where they can most successfully make sales to meet their goals. The same goes for your business. Factors like choosing which markets will be most receptive and productive for your product or service is vital, and you'll reach those conclusions as a team.
Related: 8 Lessons This Record-Breaking Girl Scout Can Teach Entrepreneurs
3. Keeping up with technology.
While this skill may not be an official part of the Girl Scout cookie sales program, technology is playing a bigger role when it comes to selling cookies. The program's developed a tool called Digital Cookie that allows cookie sales to stretch further than ever before. Technology has expanded their reach; don't you want the same for your business?
As an entrepreneur, it's crucial that you stay ahead of the curve, or at least up-to-date with your technology use. Whether it's the adoption of smart watches to monitor movement efficiency or choosing the right project management software that works perfectly with your email platform, you'll need to know what's new in the tech world.
Sometimes, it may seem like a big investment to adopt new technology if your business is relatively small or just getting off the ground but being too late to adopt an innovative tool can put you out of business altogether. Early adopters will snap up all the business, leaving you in the dust.
4. Make ethics matter.
The great struggle that many professionals have with business ethics is that it doesn't always seem like the quickest way to get ahead. And in a competitive environment, it can be tempting to let ethics slide. As the Girl Scouts make clear, however, in the long run, strong ethics are a tool for keeping customers loyal and for building a well-regarded organization. A great product or service, combined with respect and fairness, is the ultimate recipe for success.
5. Innovate on the traditional.
There are two features that come together when it comes to taking your business from the ground floor right up to the penthouse: staying true to your brand and bringing something new to the table. People want to stay close to what they love, but they don't want to get bored.
The Girl Scouts put on a remarkable performance of this combination of the innovative and the traditional at a cookie sales kickoff. Joining forces in the terminal of Grand Central Station in New York, "more than 200 Girl Scouts sang campfire songs and sold cookies to surprised commuters." Nothing had changed about the cookies those commuters had encountered before (or the songs that many of them grew up singing), but the sales pitch was different, both in nature and location. A little bit of surprise helped to slow down even the most harried morning commuters.
Girl Scout cookie sales are an $800 million per year business, so they're clearly doing something right. What makes this truly amazing is that, while facilitated by adults, the girls do the hard labor and make the big decisions. Now may be the time to bring the flair and spirit of these youthful business leaders to your company, and open the doors to change. If you can provide the focus, team spirit, ethics, and innovation of the Girl Scouts, you'll be on an unwavering road to success.
Related: When You Make Your List of Savviest Marketers, Put the Girl Scouts at the Top