There are a plenty of examples of entrepreneurs who got the entrepreneur itch at a young age. Sir Richard Branson, who runs Virgin Group, dropped out of school when he was 16 to start his first business -- a youth culture magazine -- and later started Virgin Records. Brennan Agranoff started HoopSwagg at age 13 and was bringing in seven figures just four years later. And 13-year-old Ben Casnocha started Comcate, which delivers on-demand software to local governments looking to improve customer service. Now that software is used by cities throughout the U.S.
True, these examples are likely the exception rather than the rule. While your child may not start a business tomorrow that makes him or her a billionaire before the age of 18, fostering your child's entrepreneurial spirit is likely to have myriad benefits. Entrepreneurship can teach your kids about taking risks, learning from failure, and much more.
Encouraging your child's entrepreneurial spirit starts with bolstering his or her strengths. Consider what your child is naturally good at and help him or her hone those skills. Fortunately, Gallup can help you with this challenge. Its Clifton StrengthsExplorer assessment tool spots kids' top three attributes in just 80 questions, then a customized post-assessment report for parents delivers recommendations they can use to help their children refine the identified talent themes. The tool is an objective way to verify parents' instinctual beliefs about their kids' best assets and to reframe the parent-child discussion from what a child lacks to areas where he or she can thrive.
I dove into the 10 StrengthsExplorer characteristics and singled out a few that are also important for leaders. If your young ones fit into one of these categories, rely on the following best practices to help them leverage their greatest skill sets -- and perhaps spawn a future of entrepreneurial success.
1. Enable a Discoverer's explorations.
Discoverers love the word "Why?" In fact, they ask the question a million times a day, trying to figure out what makes the world tick. As creatives, Discoverers have a thirst for knowledge and need to fulfill their curiosity. Otherwise, they feel lost and bored. Remember, these are the Jacks and Jills of all trades who live to know a little bit about a lot of things.
Helping Discoverers can be as simple as signing them up for activities that sate their quest for factoids while serving an intellectual purpose. Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs, for example, give children the ability to dive into everything from technology to the arts, with programs developed by expert industry leaders. Encouraging your child to sign up for a science fair at school will also help him or her delve deeper into something he or she is curious about. Curiosity is an essential trait for entrepreneurs, who by their nature want to find new solutions to problems -- help your child cultivate it.
2. Channel a Competer's drive.
As you might suspect, kiddos who score high in the Competing strength want to win at all costs. Competers tend to be high achievers who give 110% without fail. While that sense of motivation may prompt them to go where other children fear to tread, it might also cause them to see everything from a win-loss perspective.
To keep kids from burning out or seeing everyone as a potential rival, introduce the concept of competing against their personal bests while thriving on a team. The Math Olympiad is one way for a Competing child of elementary or middle school age to engage in regular contests that foster an ambitious spirit while tempering the need to triumph with group collaboration. Your Competer may someday conquer a new market, but chances are he or she will need a team to do it.
3. Help an Organizer communicate his or her vision.
Organizer kids are nothing if not meticulous about the literal and figurative arrangement of everything. Books may be neatly lined up on shelves. Clothing is color-coded and hanging sans wrinkles in the closet. Having the innate ability to make order out of would-be chaos can be a welcome trait, especially when your child gets into the workplace. Yet not all Organizers can express why their plan makes sense or rally others to their ways of thinking.
For that reason, you should work with your Organizer child on beefing up his or her communication skills. Start by giving your son or daughter control over a project. After the project is finished, chat about the process. Talk about what went well and any problem-solving that happened along the way. This helps the child understand his or her gift and how it benefits others -- a handy skill to have when he's communicating his company vision or she's pitching a group of VCs.
Every child brings unique aptitudes into the world. So stop worrying about your child's struggles for a moment and shift your attention to his or her personal superpowers. Parents are perfectly positioned to help their kids not only pinpoint their strengths, but also understand how to leverage them for future entrepreneurial success.