I’d wager that many, if not most, of my readers have an entrepreneurial streak to them. The fact that most of you are bloggers yourself (and personal finance bloggers, to boot) is obviously one big clue, but even amongst non-bloggers there seems to be a growing sense that starting your own business or working for yourself is the best approach to life. Many people have taken to encouraging their children to become entrepreneurs rather than go to work for a single corporation for their entire lifetime and eventually retire with a gold watch and pension. (How many people get a pension in retirement anymore? For that matter, how many people work for a single employer in their life?)
But no-one is born an entrepreneur, or at least, nobody is born with the skills and knowledge that a successful entrepreneur requires. It takes a mixture of skills, knowledge, enthusiasm, and persistence. So if you want your kids to grow up to be the next Tim Westergren, how do you help instill the proper traits in them while they’re still young enough to take your advice? There’s no sure way to make children grow up the way that we hope they will (although, if you manage to create one, you’ll have a sure-fire product to sell for your own entrepreneurial ambitions), but if you do you best to give them a solid footing on which to start their entrepreneurial journey, you can get them off to a good start. Some ways to do this include:
1. Give Them a Good Background on Money and Money Management: One of my big pet peeves, one that I’ve mentioned more than once, is that the US education system doesn’t provide an education on money management at all. (And from what I hear, it seems to be the same in most Western countries, as well.) You’re going to have to rectify this by teaching your own children about money, how to make it, spend it, and save it; this goes double if you want them to take the initiative and start their own business. A good object lesson for them could be…
2. Encourage Them to Supplement Their Allowance: One of the primary motives for anyone to start an entrepreneurial venture is to make more money for him- or herself. Children are no different; if you aren’t buying them everything they want, they’ll likely jump if you point them towards a method of getting more stuff. One way to get their entrepreneurial juices cooking is to stop increasing (or even start decreasing) their allowance when they are old enough to start a (basic) business of their own, and encourage them to build up their income outside of what you give them.
3. Give Them Some Suggestion on How to Make Money: There are plenty of ways to make money, particularly now that technology allows anyone to achieve great things from the comfort of their bedroom. Luckily for you and your offspring, there are any number of possible ways to earn money they could try, from the classics like a lemonade stand to more modern ideas like blogging or building an app. Try to find something that fits within their field of interest, and point them in the right direction.
4. Share Stories of Other Entrepreneurs: One thing that can be more motivational than any other is share stories of how other entrepreneurs achieved their success. Besides inspiring them with ideas, it can also be a great way to show the potential rewards of becoming an entrepreneur. Some of the magazines that celebrate business and entrepreneurship, like Inc. or Entrepreneur, share plenty of stories of successful entrepreneurs (as well as tools and other resources for would-be business owners). As a side note, you should also share the risks and potential problems with being an entrepreneur; you don’t want your offspring to think that becoming an entrepreneur is a sure path to great wealth.
5. Provide Them the Tools They Need (At a Price): Unfortunately for many ten year old businesspeople, banks tend not to give out too many loans to people not old enough to vote. So, if your offspring has a business plan but no other sources of money, you should take it on yourself to provide them with a loan. That is, a loan complete with repayment terms and/or a share in their future income. Besides enabling them to get their needed tools, they’ll also get a better idea of what doing business in the real world is like.
6. Help Them When They Have Trouble: There’s one thing that’s certain in life; trouble will arise. Undoubtedly, your child will have trouble with their entrepreneurial attempts; luckily for them, they have you to help pick them up when they fall. While you don’t want them to get the idea that failure is easy, painless, or *gasp* fun, you can also cushion the fall when things go wrong, keeping them from becoming too disillusioned with the entrepreneurial lifestyle (or life in general, for that matter).
There you have it, a few suggestions on how to raise an entrepreneurial kid. As of yet, I haven’t had the opportunity to put any of these into practice (a lack of kids will do that), but when I do have children of my own, I plan to put these suggestions into practice and hopefully bring out their entrepreneurial side(s). Good luck to anyone else attempting to