At some point, every child has to answer the question: "What does your mom/dad do?" This is where the children whose parents have readily identifiable jobs have it easy. Saying: "My mom is a doctor" or "My dad is a firefighter," is so simple and unambiguous.
When my kids tell their peers what I do, they are often met with the response: "What's an auntraprinoor?"
Even though entrepreneurship is one of the oldest professions known to humanity (and one that isn't likely to be taken over by robots), it was still difficult to get my kids to understand what exactly it is and get them excited about it.
They were much more excited about building houses where none stood before or inventing something that didn't exist before than building a company. But once I explained to them that entrepreneurship is really about making the world a better place by making positive changes to it, they got a little more excited about it. (The phrase: "Entrepreneurs are the superheroes of the business world," may have also helped.)
If you're an entrepreneur who wants to show your children exactly what you do and how you change the world, here are six ideas for you tested by me and my entrepreneurial wife:
1. Take them to work and business meetings.
Wait, this isn't as crazy as it sounds. You don't have to do it for hours at a time and you don't have to take them to high level meetings.
Even if they only listen passively or mostly play in a corner, they will still pick up some of what's going on and it will help to normalize your workplace and what you do there in their minds. They will have questions before and after the meeting or the period when you take them to work that will give you a chance to explain what's going on.
Other people in the office will appreciate something different than just the usual business talk going on. You'll find that people tend to be looser and more honestly themselves around kids, which can be helpful during meetings.
It's a good idea to choose meetings that won't go too long and that will have some kind of visual element to them. I've personally found that my kids tend to behave better around others than they do at home (much to my chagrin), so disruption isn't really a problem.
2. Take them on business trips.
When we have to travel for business, my wife and I try to take one of the kids with us (or go as a family if both of us are going on the trip). The opportunity to travel and spend time together is always welcome and you can talk about the purpose of the trip with your kids.
As mentioned above, kids also have a way of disarming people and getting them to act more like regular people than business people during meetings, which can be helpful.
3. Involve them with social entrepreneurship projects.
This is where you can hammer home the concept that entrepreneurs make the world a better place (and that they're superheroes). It doesn't have to be something big, just something that pertains to your business that your kids can participate in and see in action.
4. Talk about business.
This is the simplest and most powerful way you can explain the concept of entrepreneurship to your kids. When you have decisions to make about new products or new campaigns, tell your kids about them and ask for their input.
Kids love giving feedback and ideas, and being talked to as adults. You might be surprised to receive some great feedback since their minds work different than adults--they might see or say things that wouldn't have occurred to you.
5. Make entrepreneurs heroes and role models.
Focusing on a few successful and respectable entrepreneurs with exciting life stories will make it easier for kids to identify with them. My older son's current idols are: Bill Gates, for using his wealth for good; Richard Branson, for starting so many world-changing companies while maintaining an approachable style; and Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, for building a socially conscious business.
My younger son idolizes Elon Musk for his dedication to constant innovation. (Just kidding. It's because my son wants to go to Mars someday.)
6. Listen to business podcasts or watch documentaries.
In the car commuting to school, listen to some fun business podcasts where successful entrepreneurs give interviews. "How I Built This" on NPR is a great example.
Good business documentaries are also helpful to watch. YouTube is also full of interviews with entrepreneurs. I suggest picking a few good entrepreneurial role models to watch.
By educating your kids in fun and engaging ways, you can teach them about entrepreneurialism and inspire them to make their own positive change in the world. Plus, it will give you the excuse you've been looking for to wear a cape to work.