Being a parent, like running a business, is challenging. But being an entrepreneur can actually give you a leg up. Entrepreneurs are resourceful, creative and intellectually curious by nature, and sharing entrepreneurship's unique set of principles with your children can help them succeed in the new economy.
Many successful entrepreneurs start quite young, launching their first businesses before they turn 21. With entrepreneurship growing and the cost of starting a business decreasing, it’s reasonable to assume the next generation will start even earlier. So, instilling your entrepreneurial values in them now will give your kids a real head start.
Creating an entrepreneurial legacy
Because you are an entrepreneur, the tone of your conversations will naturally be different from those of other parents. As with any values, your kids will organically absorb your entrepreneurial ethos just by seeing how you live and work.
However, if you want to drive home lessons you’ve learned along your entrepreneurial journey, incorporate these six attributes into your children’s daily lives.
1. An action orientation. Most entrepreneurs don’t write business plans. Instead, they take action on an idea, preferring to see where it leads and adjust in real time. Parents who lack an entrepreneurial mindset might overanalyze, unknowingly teaching their children to avoid risk-taking, which is fundamental to entrepreneurship.
If your children want to take an entrepreneurial toe-dip by setting up a lemonade stand, for example, encourage and support them as an investor would. Offer a revenue share deal, or have them reimburse you for supplies. Letting them take action on ideas while concurrently teaching them the importance of the investor relationship will give them confidence.
As your child becomes more of a self-starter and develops intrinsic motivation, that can carry him or her through rough patches at school or in the social world.
2. A sense of autonomy. Entrepreneurs know they can’t be micromanaged and still expected to be accountable for their own outcomes; that’s why they value independence. And there’s no more concrete example of micromanaging than helicopter parenting.
Helicopter parents succeed only in setting their kids up for failure by making them less confident, more risk-averse and more dependent on authority as they get older. So, once you’ve handed over the investment in the lemonade stand, back off. Let your kids figure out how to make it work -- if they don't, you’re there to answer questions, not tell them what to do.
What’s in it for you? They’ll learn to solve their own problems and be less dependent on Mom and Dad.
3. Financial literacy. Don’t hide the tough reality of starting and running a business from your kids. They need to understand that it takes responsibility and sacrifice; nothing happens magically.
Even a simple lawn-mowing business teaches important concepts like margin, revenue, expenses, profit and saving. And kids can comprehend advanced concepts such as these if you start explaining the basics early on in fun ways, moving steadily into more complex ideas.
The benefits of growing a financially literate child? Self-explanatory.
4. Sales acumen. Entrepreneurs keenly understand the importance of pursuing and building meaningful relationships: You can’t wait for opportunities to come to you; you have to grab them. I learned this myself at an early age, when I discovered the resale value of Now and Later candy at my school. I made a nice profit, until my grandmother put the kibosh on the whole operation.
In my lemonade stand example, you can encourage your kids to leave the table and approach people to let them know they can quench their thirst nearby. They’ll learn how to speak up and come to understand the unique power of offering up a desirable solution.
By putting themselves out there, your children will find more opportunities in life.
5. A growth mindset. Kids learn in school that failing is bad, but successful entrepreneurs understand that failure is an essential part of success. In the words of late businessman and former U.S. Rep. Robert Allen, “There is no failure, only feedback.”
Use failure to teach your kids to foster continuous improvement. Turning failures into learning opportunities is not just about saying, “Your lemonade stand didn’t do well today, but that’s okay.” Instead, encourage them to innovate by embracing a growth mindset: “Okay, so you failed today -- but what did you learn from it? What would you change tomorrow?”
If they learn it’s not all right to fail or that failure is permanent, they’ll be scared to take chances and to think outside the box and try new things. Essentially, their ability to make their lives better will become increasingly limited. Conversely, if they value failures as chances to devise new strategies, they’ll become more confident and well-rounded.
6. A love of lifelong learning. Successful entrepreneurs are always striving to improve themselves and their businesses. They know that the only constant is change and that what works today may not tomorrow. Excellence does not mean perfection; it means creating healthy, productive habits through practice and discipline.
Many nights, my daughter and I chat about work before bedtime. I tell her about my clients or about marketing, and she asks questions about business practices. Just through these casual conversations, she already understands more about wholesale and retail pricing, revenue, profit and margin than do most college students.
By cultivating continuous improvement, you’ll give your children the confidence to push outside their comfort zones, as well as the self-awareness to recognize their own limitations and where they can leverage partnerships.
Passing on your entrepreneurial values to your kids will give them advantages in life, but you’ll find that that exercise enriches your life, too. Instead of hovering over a timid, needy child, you’ll be able to develop your own business and focus on your own relationships. And the independence both of you foster will ensure a lasting parent-child relationship that’s more meaningful, fun and rewarding.