How to raise an entrepreneur
Doctor, ballerina, firefighter, superhero – all noble and popular professions among the preschool playground crew. But what about Entrepreneur?
As a business owner, you live for the thrill of being your own boss and controlling your own destiny. And as a parent, you can’t help but wonder whether your child will inherit your passion and instinct for building a business.
The good news is that many entrepreneurial skills can be taught. Skills like problem-solving, presenting, and researching are all a part of building entrepreneurial mindsets and tendencies. But just like riding a bike or trying to master cursive, when it comes to learning how to ‘think like an owner,’ children need a little guidance every now and then.
So whether they dream of taking over the family business or forging their own unique path, here are five simple ways to instill an entrepreneurial spirit in your children:
1. Learn how to solve problems, not just get money
As a child, EDROP-off founder and CEO Corri McFadden noticed a problem: There were no vending machines at school. After calling the director of a candy supplier and organizing a 180-day candy delivery and payment plan, she began selling candy on the school bus. McFadden reported that she would go through an entire case every day.
Entrepreneurship is about solving problems. And, as McFadden’s early candy sales shows, you don’t have to solve a complicated problem to make an immediate impact.
Help your children learn to spot business opportunities by paying attention to what people say they want or the problems they have. Teach your children how they can add value to other people’s lives. For example, instead of opening a lemonade stand solely to sell a product, help them think about who would benefit the most from having lemonade nearby. Perhaps it’s thirsty gym-goers or fellow kids playing at a park on a summer day.
2. Embrace failure together
All of us experience some fear of mistakes, failure and rejection. While this can be healthy, entrepreneurs need to get comfortable with failure and see mistakes and rejection as valuable learning opportunities.
Spanx founder and CEO Sara Blakely reported that as a child, her father gave her high-fives and congratulated her for her mistakes. This taught her to think of failure differently. Instead of thinking of failure as an unintended outcome, she redefined it to mean what happens when she didn’t try. Blakely cites that this mindset is invaluable for becoming comfortable with risk, and encourages her own employees to share their failures.
According to a recent Funding Circle study, 74% of small business owners recognize their father as an important influence on their strong work ethic. Mothers are equally important role models for their children — with 42% of business owners indicating their mothers taught them confidence and 40% saying their mothers helped them learn resilience.*
Whether it’s trying a new sport or getting a grade back on an assignment, Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck recommends parents teach their children to have a growth mindset. He explains that students who believe their intelligence can be developed (a growth mindset) outperform those who believed their intelligence is fixed. Encourage your child to solicit feedback and ask: What went well, and what could have been done better? Help your child see test results as indicators of areas to grow in, rather than as labels of worth.
Cheer your child on when they succeed and fail, and help them apply what they learned from every experience.
3. Listen more
In his book, Let My People Go Surfing, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard chronicled his young adult years making just enough money selling gear so that he could take off to go climbing. His gear became renowned in his niche, because he tailored his products based on what he wanted and what his friends and customers needed. His experience reinforced one of the key concepts of entrepreneurship: learn how to listen to what your customers want.
From social listening online to talking to potential customers in order to better define their problems and solutions, your child can also learn how to listen more carefully. Teach them to ask people what they think, and be comfortable soliciting and delivering feedback tactfully. Through this process, your child may discover a new business idea he or she hadn’t considered before. By knowing what excites and motivates potential customers, your child will learn how to improve his or her pitch and presentation – skills critical for entrepreneurship.
4. Financial literacy is non-negotiable
For Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, education with money began at an early age. His first entrepreneurial endeavor was a worm farm he bought for $33.45 at age 9, which failed when all the worms died. His first winning venture — a custom button making business — earned him $800, which he turned around and reinvested into a mail order magic trick business.
Whether you give your child an allowance or invest in their business ideas, make sure your child gets direct experience managing money. Teach your children the basic principles of saving, and help them understand the difference between spending and investing for greater value – be it education, long-term health, or the ability to generate more profits. As they grow older, show them how to set up savings and checking accounts and retirement funds.
For many young adults, college is the first time they manage a budget on their own, and the transition can be stressful. However, with a little bit of guidance, young adulthood doesn’t have to be the first time your children think about money.
5. Just do it
Anyone can come up with ideas. What separates entrepreneurs from everyone else is their ability to take a crazy dream and turn it into reality.
Challenge your children to take their big ideas and break them down into something they could do immediately. Encourage their passions by asking what’s the next smallest, achievable step they could take to make their ideas happen. As behavior change expert BJ Fogg explains, starting with a “tiny habit” is key to achieving goals. They don’t have to be experts – they just have to get started.
Remember to celebrate your children’s hard work, bravery, optimism and willingness to try – not just their intelligence and talents. As they develop confidence, resilience, courage, and perseverance, you’re helping prepare them to think big and embrace challenges that come their way in the future. Because let’s face it, what child hasn’t dreamt – even for a moment – of what it would be like to be their own boss!
*Funding Circle Small Business Survey, March 2017
Results for the Funding Circle Small Business Survey were collected through an online survey conducted by SurveyMonkey. A total of 1,377 U.S. small business owners completed the survey between March 1-13, 2017.