By Doug Bennett
Some of the world’s top entrepreneurs made a poor impression in school or early employment but went on to excel in life and business.
When I was ten years old, I got up at 5.30am to deliver milk and newspapers before school. I valued having my own money. If you’ve been part of my community for a while, you might remember that as a financial adviser I was once on the brink of bankruptcy but within ten years had become a millionaire.
Being an entrepreneur is not all about traditional education.
Why the three Rs aren’t all that big a deal
Although by UK law all children of school age must receive a suitable full-time education, there is more to a successful life (whatever that means to you) than the three Rs (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic).
Albert Einstein’s mother was told to keep him at home because his teacher believed he would never amount to anything, and Walt Disney was dismissed from his role as a journalist because he was not considered creative enough, and look at the success they both achieved!
It can be a worry if your children are not attaining academic success, but the quote, rightly or wrongly often attributed to Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”, is a brilliant reminder that we each have unique skills and talents.
If you think you might have a budding entrepreneur in your family, nurture them; even if they don’t create an empire, they’ll always remember your support.
Here are ten ways that you can help set your entrepreneurial child up for success (even if they’re only showing a tiny glimmer of potential!):
- Inspire them to set goals. Approximately 3% of people set goals, but even if you’re not of the goal-setting mindset, as a parent it’s helpful to encourage your children to think about their aspirations. Explore what sort of house they might like to live in as an adult. What sort of vehicle do they want to drive? Ask them about the lifestyle they’d like for themselves.
Help inspire them into recognising that they have the power to create the sort of future they would love. Once they know what that looks like, encourage them to start thinking about what they enjoy doing in life (and/or excel at) and the business opportunities that might stem from that.
Conversations such as these help your child to come up with their life goals and what they’re likely to cost, as well as business ideas to support their choices.
- Encourage them to make decisions in everyday life. Entrepreneurs constantly need to make decisions to progress their business. The earlier your child starts to learn that their decisions have positive and negative consequences, and to find ways to navigate challenges, the more adept they’ll become at trusting their gut and keeping a level head.
For example, if they want to spend all their free time binge-watching Netflix, that might make for entertaining chat with their friends, but does it help them carry their business ideas forward? (See also #6 on time management.)
- Don’t allow money to be the sole focus. Making money is one of the primary goals of business, but for your child to live a life they love, it’s also wise to inspire them to focus on the other benefits their business can offer to them and a wider audience.
Dolly Parton has the right idea: “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
- Ensure your teen only sells what they believe in. Even if your child can see a brilliant business forming out of their idea, make sure that they truly believe in the product (i.e. it’s not just a get-rich-quick scheme with a sham product!).
- Cultivate imagination and be realistic! It’s brilliant to reach for the stars but it’s also useful for your child to be realistic about how much they can charge for their product or service, and the time and effort it might take to deliver. Show enthusiasm for their ideas and help them rework them into a feasible business.
- Promote good time management. If your teen is passionate about their idea, encourage them to pay attention to how they spend their time now so that they naturally learn to utilise small pockets of time to achieve “quick wins” and adopt a healthy work-life balance. For example, if they enjoy going to the gym, perhaps they can also listen to a podcast from someone who inspires them.
It’s often wise to keep a business that’s in its infancy as a side hustle and develop it alongside another part-time job. Your teen might like to take on a paid role that’s not too taxing on the brain so that they have plenty of mental agility to work on their own business afterwards.
- Record action. Goal-getters, including me, love to write down our goals, but spending too much time on the to-do list is a sophisticated form of procrastination! Instead, recommend to your teen that they record the action steps they take, and then celebrate their mini wins along the way (check out this blog).
While it’s tempting to wait for perfection, it’s often said that greater progress is made by those who fail fast and are willing to learn from their “mistakes”.
- Ask them to reconsider the company they keep. This is unlikely to be a popular concept with your teen, but motivational author Jim Rohn maintains that you become an average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Although it might feel a bit odd, it’s often worth being the least intelligent person in the room because that way you learn the most!
- Don’t become the Bank of Mum and Dad! Charge them rent for living at home. As soon as your teens are earning their own cash, help them understand the value of money by asking for a set contribution to the household budget. It might feel mean but look at it this way: if they are earning £900 a month and they get to keep it all, they’re more likely to settle for that figure; but if you take £300 of it and they don’t have much left after their mobile phone bill, a few nights out or running their own car, they’re more likely to raise their standard and look for another way to increase their earning capacity. Don’t be the Bank of Mum and Dad!
If they are living with you, encourage them to save money. If they are able to save £1,000 a month, within three years they would have a £36,000 deposit for a house or a healthy business startup fund.
- Boost their mental diet. Encourage your teen to listen to podcasts, watch programmes about entrepreneurs and people who inspire them, and to start paying attention to what they consider fantastic customer service so that they can emulate that! Even if you think their business idea is terrible because it’s not what you had in mind for them, encourage and support them by sharing relevant blogs or stories that you find.
I hope this blog has helped you explore ways that you could champion a potential future world genius! Finally, if you know you want to help your teen build their business and you don’t know where to start, do one of three things:
- Check out my book Think Simple Win Big: How to Build the Business of Your Dreams With a Few Simple Goals. I wrote it for service-based entrepreneurs (not teens), but there are plenty of great mindset hacks to help get you and them started!
- Ask your child what they would love from you, other than money (you might be surprised)!
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to offer professional advice and support.