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Is your lemonade stand on a closed road?

It's spring and the lemonade stands - staffed by budding young entrepreneurs - are starting to pop up. This is a great learning experience for a young lass or lad, but might it also teach us something?

On the way home from a recent bike ride, I took a road that I enjoy and ride on frequently. I saw a large "Road Closed" sign, but figured I could find a path through on my bike. I continued another mile down a big hill to the construction site. As I suspected, I got through.

Strangely, however, a young girl sat about a block up the hill - well past the sign announcing the road closure - with a lemonade stand. She was too far away to attract the construction workers and well beyond the revenue-killing "Road Closed" sign. I thought about stopping to give her a bit of free consulting, but my pro bono dance card was already full.

I got to thinking, How many businesses are all spooled up and ready to go but metaphorically positioned on a closed road? There are many closed roads in business, such as:

• Having a retail store with poor ingress and egress (When a young couple asked an old Irishman for directions, he said, "Well, if I were going there, I wouldn't start here!")
• Selling a great product that's focused on the wrong market (This is like selling refrigerators to polar bears.)
• Risking capital in a business that has high risk and potential for government intervention (Would you invest in pot dispensaries at this point?)
• Trying to grow a capital-dependent business without the requisite growth capital (As a business owner once said to me, "How can I be broke? I'm profitable and my business is growing!")
• Ignoring new technology (Look no further than Blockbuster and the music industry. ...)

In business, it's easy to tell that the road is closed once you hit the construction area, but often there are signs announcing the closure that we don't see because we're not looking, or we chose to ignore them because we're breathing our own exhaust. The fact that you love lemonade and that it's convenient for you to put your lemonade stand at the end of your block doesn't mean it's good business practice.

Risk analysis, scanning the horizon and taking the time to look "beyond the four walls" are critical to avoiding closed roads. Is your business positioned on a highway, or are you like the little girl with the lemonade stand?

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

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