Tag Archive: role model

Lessons in Entrepreneurship from Ben and Jerry’s

Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen, founders of Ben and Jerry's

I’ve been really enjoying Guy Raz’s excellent How I Built This podcast on NPR. When I was listening to an episode with Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream fame, I noticed a few lessons that today’s entrepreneurs could learn.

  1. When Ben and Jerry were picking the site for their first ice cream shop, they stood out on street corners with handheld Tally Counters to count foot traffic. This is an excellent Lean Startup-style experiment, and one that only requires hustle and work (and a tally counter). They were making cheap, practical, data-driven decisions, even at a very early stage in their company.
  2. They started with only $8,000 of invested startup capital. And they taught themselves about making ice cream via a correspondence course.
  3. When Ben and Jerry wrote their first business plan for funding, they didn’t know what they were doing. They used a business plan from a pizza restaurant to guide them. When they were finished running their projections, they realized that they would have to set higher sales targets to stay in business. So they set higher sales targets and did what it took to reach them. This is an EXCELLENT example of the value to be gained from planning and projections. This is exactly the kind of insights that you should surface while you’re doing planning and business modeling.

If you want to read more about the Ben and Jerry’s story, you can check out the classic, “Ben & Jerry’s: The Inside Scoop: How Two Real Guys Built a Business with a Social Conscience and a Sense of Humor“:

Featured Entrepreneur: Pitman Farms

I had the privilege this week of visiting Pitman Farms, the company behind Mary’s Free Range Chicken. Though I didn’t meet Mary or her husband Rick, I did get to sit down with their son Ben. He told us about the family business, including their successes and their lessons. He shared with me this video.

Some of my favorite moments in the video:

  • When Rick Pitman said, “Our goal is to sell chickens, but our purpose is to create jobs.” He’s in an area of intensely concentrated poverty and high unemployment, and the risk taken by this family of entrepreneurs is making life better for hundreds of workers and their families.
  • Mary’s connection to her customers via her phone number on the bags. the feedback she gets directly from their customers is an extremely effective form of market research.
  • Rick didn’t wait when he heard about the plant available in Sanger. I’m sure he worked out the numbers, but he didn’t take a year to game out every scenario before pulling the trigger on the location.
  • This is a great reminder that family business is personal, and the successes and failures of family business are very personally felt.

If you want to read more about family business, I recommend buying a copy of Perpetuating the Family Business: 50 Lessons Learned From Long Lasting, Successful Families in Business by John Ward or The BraveHeart Exit: 7 Steps to Your Family Business Legacy by my friend Randy Long.