No matter if you're welcoming it or dreading it, one day your little one may come up to you and whisper/shout those few little words: "I want to be an entrepreneur."
Of course, you want to support whatever career path your child chooses, but you know first hand just how hard it can be. Starting a business can mean late nights, no social life and a big financial commitment. And then, some businesses still don't make it.
So what will you say? I say, encourage them -- even if they're too young to incorporate. In honor of Father's Day, here are eight ways that I endeavor to support my own kids in their dreams to become entrepreneurs.
- Create responsibility opportunities. Just as employees develop by gaining in responsibility, children can too. You could start them out with something as simple as taking responsibility for emptying your home's wastebaskets, and move them up to sorting the mail or helping with meal planning. Planning and executing projects will be important skills later on.
- Teach basic finance and budgeting. Many entrepreneurs fall down on the numbers side of their businesses. Help reduce that risk by involving your child in the finances of managing a home and family. You can assign specific tasks such as figuring out the cost for an upcoming family trip. Calculating the ways and means if your funds fall a little short is another useful entrepreneurial skill.
- Build leadership opportunities. Structured programs such as Boy and Girl Scouts offer chances to practice leadership. There are also things you can do at home. If your budding entrepreneur has younger siblings, he or she could take the lead during a birthday party or excursion. Tutoring younger siblings in reading or math can help your child learn how to lead with support without taking too much control or bullying.
- Visit businesses and tour factories. All children will benefit from being introduced to the world of business. Many companies have tours that are open to the public, and these experiences can provide insights into what it takes to run a company. Encourage your children to research a company before the tour and to have some questions prepared for the tour guide.
- Bring your children to work with you. Understanding what you do every day can help you bond with your children while enlightening them on what's required to run a successful business. If possible, walk them through the processes involved with your job. Explain your position in relation to others in your company.
- Speak honestly about your work. Share stories from your day as part of dinner-table conversation. Encourage questions and take the time to explain industry jargon or anything else that could be confusing. Talk frankly about the challenges and tough topics such as work ethics. Your children will model their behavior after you, so remember to set a good example.
- Let them communicate. All successful entrepreneurs need to converse, present and write well. Create situations where those skills are needed. Perhaps have them write and produce a short play for the family at holidays. Encourage letter or email writing to out-of-town family members. Suggest that they develop short PowerPoint or Keynote presentations to celebrate special family events. Yes, they will have some training in these areas in school, but the more exposure they have the easier it will be for them.
- Pick up a copy of Kidpreneurs . Shameless plug here... My brother Matthew and I wrote Kidpreneurs to encourage children to become entrepreneurs even before they grow up. A special parent-teacher guide is also on its way. The combination provides a great tool for helping you address all the questions your budding entrepreneurs have, give them chances to practice the skills they will need to be successful and provide a road map to starting a business.
Take the time now to build these skills and offer your children a better understanding of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Think of it as a Father's day gift you're giving to your kids.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.