While many in the business community worry about how to boost their own creativity and productivity, those of us who are parents are also concerned with how to instill these values in our children. This is the topic that Margot Machol Bisnow, author of "Raising an Entrepreneur: 10 Rules for Nurturing Risk Takers, Problem Solvers, and Change Makers" (New Harbinger Publications, 2016) has thought quite a lot about. Her two sons are both entrepreneurs, Austin started the popular band Magic Giant and Elliott founded Summit Series, an international conference series for millennial entrepreneurs. They also led the purchase and development of Powder Mountain ski resort in Utah as a permanent home for their community. But for her book, Bisnow tapped into advice from a much broader community of experts -- the moms of over fifty of today's most successful innovators. She synthesizes their advice into ten rules "for raising confident, fearless, self-made individuals whose ideas and drive will change the world." The following is an excerpt from her interview with Inc.com.
Kate L. Harrison: What inspired you to write this book?
Machol Bisnow: I met many of the country's top young entrepreneurs through an organization my son Elliott started, Summit Series. Just out of curiosity, I asked many of them to tell me more about how they were raised. I wanted to learn why they were willing to put everything on the line for an idea, to take on so much risk, to work so hard to turn their passion into a project. To my amazement, they basically all told me the same thing: "I had a mom who believed in me. She told me I could achieve anything I set my mind to."
This made me dig deeper and to discover if there were patterns and similarities in how entrepreneurs were raised. Let me be clear: to me, an entrepreneur is anyone who starts something: for profit, not for profit, artists, activists, even "intrapreneurs" who start projects within other organizations. That's why the subtitle of my book is key: "10 Rules for Nurturing Risk Takers, Problem Solvers & Change Makers."
Harrison: Are there some common misconceptions about what it takes to raise an entrepreneur?
Bisnow: I often read misconceived articles that tell parents that if they want their children to become entrepreneurs, they have to do certain things: send them to entrepreneur camp, teach them to code, have them negotiate the price they'll be paid for doing chores. I think this is horribly misplaced emphasis. It's a top-down approach. You can't make someone become an entrepreneur. In fact, I don't think you should make someone anything. I think it has to stem from within them, become something that is their passion, not yours.
Harrison: Were any of your findings surprising or unexpected?
Bisnow: Yes. I was stunned by what I found. I purposely chose an incredibly diverse group of entrepreneurs: I included 30 men and 30 women; every race and religion; every type of family background; born in small towns and big cities from across the country, and even born in other countries; with married parents, divorced parents, or single parents; and economically, from single moms barely making ends meet to upper middle-class families who could lend their kids $10,000 to get started. I included only kids all the way up to those who were one of seven kids in their family. Their education -- both of the entrepreneurs and their parents -- was also all over the map. Birth order was wildly unaligned. And yet, to my amazement, while they were obviously raised in different families, in core ways they were all raised the same. I have distilled these findings into 10 rules that other families can follow.
Harrison: What are your top 3 tips?
Bisnow: The first, and most important thing is to listen to your kids. See what makes their heart sing. Encourage it. Nurture it. Support it. If they love something, they will work very hard at it. If they work hard, they will develop grit. No one becomes an entrepreneur if they haven't learned grit. That is truly key.
Next, if your child is thriving doing something they love outside of school, and they aren't brilliant students, don't worry about it too much. Lots of hugely successful entrepreneurs weren't the valedictorian of their class. I believe it's more important to have a child with a passion, who throws herself headlong into something, than a child who's "well rounded" and performs pretty well in everything she's presented with.
Third, don't protect them from failing. As Billie Jean King says, "We don't call it failure, we call it feedback." Teaching you child by example that failure is a valuable learning experience, not a horrible mistake, is critically important if you want your child to become an entrepreneur.
Harrison: Should parents actively try to raise an entrepreneur?
Bisnow: No. Parents should aim to raise children who are happy with who they are, and able to find a career path that gives them joy. For some, that will be becoming an entrepreneur. For others, it won't. But that has to be the child's choice.
The entrepreneurs I spoke to were almost never driven by money. They poured their passion into their businesses to make a better product or unique service or to make an important difference in the world.
However, whether or not they become entrepreneurs, Bisnow feels that all children can become more entrepreneurial. "This will help your child in anything they do. Children thrive when they learn to believe in themselves. Confidence allows them to pursue their true passions, find new ways to solve old problems, see opportunity where others see the status quo. It makes it possible to take on a challenge without "proper credentials." The entrepreneurs I studied learned to work with single-minded determination towards their goals; they take on risk if the project is worth trying, and learn that building something wonderful is its own reward, regardless of how much money you may make. These young people are able to dream big dreams, and then chase them down.
You can find Bisnow's book with lessons and specific anecdotes from the moms she interviewed on Amazon.