For ten years I watched, supported, and took pride in my friend Kat, who successfully built and sold a highly respected public relations firm. Now, Kat takes her three young children to several different countries each year, immersing her family in the local culture. I've watched Kat's kids grow into industrious, bold children with a great entrepreneurial spirit. Her ten-year-old daughter, Morgan, knits sweaters for small pets and sells them on Facebook. She already knows about cause marketing and donates a portion of her proceeds to charity.
I hear the stories of child entrepreneurs often and I've seen firsthand how valuable a parent's lead is in the development of their entrepreneurial mindset. Coupled with the delightful curiosity and playfulness that a child brings into the equation, living in an entrepreneurial family can instill the skills he or she needs to navigate life through adulthood.
1. They see the greater possibilities.
Entrepreneurs don't limit their thinking to what they already know is possible. We explore the greater possibilities and view the big picture with a skilled eye. When others say something not possible, we assess and analyze the situation and find ways to make it possible. In short, entrepreneurs are not limited by the status quo and neither are their children. As entrepreneurs, we teach our children not to settle for less than they can imagine is possible.
2. They build resilience.
While successful entrepreneurs feel they are living the dream, it doesn't come without its share of stress. Your children are likely to develop a stress response based on the example you set forth. Kids will learn how to deal with life's challenges and develop greater resilience as they witness how their parent-entrepreneur navigates the stumbling blocks in life and business.
3. They learn how to handle feedback.
Whether or not we seek it out, feedback comes in all forms--from customers, family, investors, friends, and mentors. A smart entrepreneur is able to sort it all out and discard anything that's irrelevant or detrimental to growth. Your backbone for feedback, including criticism, is not lost on your children. If your child is involved in your business or has one of his or her own, they will emulate your behavior. This gives the parent a perfect opportunity to teach reasoning and the value of a positive attitude.
4. They learn to evaluate risk.
When little Morgan decided to launch her first business (yes, she's had more than one), she expressed concern that people may not buy her product. Together, she and Kat talked about that possibility and Kat taught her how to invest minimum dollars and time as she tests the market.
Learning to weigh the pros and cons, develop a strategy, and understand the financial and emotional risks associated with doing something new are valuable life skills. Whether or not your child becomes an entrepreneur he or she will benefit.
5. They gain an understanding of finances and may manage money better.
A simple lemonade stand presents the perfect opportunity for a parent to teach their kids about money. When my girls set up their first stand I didn't just hand over the seed money, I gave them a loan. We did a simple, hand-written spreadsheet with costs, gross income, and profits. I saw them make responsible choices, step up the stand's creative image, and hustle for sales. Today, I'm proud to say that one of my daughters is the co-owner of a successful seven-figure business and several other startups.
6. They value freedom.
One question I ask my new clients is, "What are your top three values?" Without fail, freedom tops the list. Entrepreneurial parents value freedom in part because it offers the flexibility to parent without the constraints of a corporate job. Our children become accustomed to a flexible lifestyle. This value is handed down to them and as they mature they are likely to design a lifestyle that offers the same freedoms they experienced as children.
7. They learn the art of negotiation, communication, and compromise.
Entrepreneurs shoot for the stars and go all-out to get what they want and need, but they leave room for negotiation and compromise. Children pick up on these skills easily and naturally. At a young age, kids begin to ask parents for things they know they won't get, viewing this strategy as a means to find a middle ground.
"Mom, can we have ice cream for dinner?"
"No, you may not have ice cream for dinner, but if you eat your vegetables you may have ice cream for dessert."
When kids become young entrepreneurs, they learn to hone this skill and find ways to produce an outcome that pleases everyone.
While not everyone is cut out for the job of chief entrepreneur, we naturally teach our kids skills associated with running a business. Encourage your children to participate in your business in whatever ways they are capable. Entrepreneurship fosters skills and character traits that promise to benefit your child throughout his or her lifetime.