3 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Kindergarteners

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This story appears in the October 2013 issue of . Subscribe »

As an adjunct professor to the entrepreneurship class at a Michigan business school, I get asked questions from an intelligent group of students--all of whom are on the verge of starting the next Google. Or lemonade stand. Or something in between.

Over time, I've noticed that many of my answers seem to come straight out of a kindergartner's mind, demonstrating some innate childhood logic that is, invariably, the exact opposite of what my teachers taught me. Judge for yourself:

Student: "How do I get started on my business?"
My answer: "Act before you think."
Too many people spend far too long thinking and planning when they should be doing. I say, just start. I don't care how. Get moving: Build something, sell something, see where it goes. If you spend too long analyzing how difficult it's going to be to launch your business, you will likely learn that, yep, it's too hard to even start.

Student: "How do I get funding?"
My answer: "Fake it, take it, then earn it."
Let's be honest, 95 percent of any startup's pitch deck is filled with bogus stats, financials and references--and your investors know it. They pay much more attention to your talents and to what you've delivered in the past than to your predictions for the future. The key is to take this BS, drum up every ounce of credibility you have and meld them together to try to deliver on a promise.

Student: "How do I sell my company and actually make money?"
My answer: "Don't play nice."
Everyone dreams of the gazillion-dollar IPO, but the vast majority of successful founders exit after being bought out. Reaching that point usually involves being a pain-in-the-ass threat to a competitor's business--ideally one with deep pockets and money to burn.

Robert Fulghum's book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten says we'd all do better if we stuck to the basic rules of kindness, sharing and personal responsibility we're taught that first year in school. While that credo might apply to a better life, entrepreneurship--like those 5-year-olds running around the playground--is often about breaking rules.

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