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Lessons Learned from the County Fair Corn Roast

folks enjoying cornGreetings!

My Lions Club has a tent at the Howard County 4-H Fair (www.howardcofair.com) every year. Every year, we roast and sell corn on the cob to raise money for our scholarship fund. Our fire-roasted corn is, year after year, the best and most popular at the fair. Now, I could wear you out with stories about why we do it the way we do it. Instead, I’ve been thinking about how I could share some of the lessons that I’ve learned by helping as a worker since 1999, and leading the effort for the last few years. So far, I’ve come up with the following three main lessons. I think they can be applied in almost any business.

1) Be Consistent

In years past, when we’ve had to serve roasting ears that were less than great, word spread almost instantly! Our business would fall off the very next night, and some potential customers would come up to the counter and ask, “How’s the corn? We heard it wasn’t very good.” WORD GETS AROUND QUICKLY WHEN YOU DISAPPOINT SOMEONE. Take all necessary measures to deliver your product or service consistently.

2) Have Fun

The crew works better, and produces longer without a break, when the mood is light, and the members in charge are trying to keep a good rapport with the customers, rather than just filling orders. Silliness is OK, as long as it doesn’t keep you from serving.

3) Continue to Improve

Since 1973, the corn roast operation has evolved dramatically. But from one year to the next, the changes are usually more like “adjustments”. Baby steps. The last two years, we have increased the involvement of students and adult volunteers. They have to be trained and supervised a little more, but they become part of a very important group: potential permanent members of the club. They also tell their friends about it, and we get more customers. For you, your continuous improvements can similarly broaden your network and expand your influence in your community and your industry.

If you would like to hear more about what we’ve learned by roasting corn at the 4-H fair, drop me a note at jr (at) marketingmercenary.net. If you’d like to discuss how to better market your business or organization, use the same e-mail, please.

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