3 ways to help your kids develop entrepreneurial skills

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How to raise entrepreneurs – classic influences of nature versus nurture.

Are entrepreneurs born or bred? For me, it was probably more natural than cultural. I wasn’t really raised around entrepreneurs. My grandfather was a caretaker; my mother cleaned the houses. I guess it could be considered running your own business. But I didn’t see my parents doing traditional startup stuff like talking about financial issues at the dinner table, reading tax returns, or managing employees.

Entrepreneurs see problems and try to find solutions

Natural entrepreneurs have a problem-solving mindset. They walk around and see problems in the world, and think of solutions like, Wouldn’t it be cool if….

For example, I was at baseball practice when I was a kid. I noticed the long queue at the snack bar afterwards. Most of the other children were eating and talking with their friends. But deep down I wondered how I could find a better system. The pizza wasn’t even that great, but the location was perfect. Every two minutes the kids were spending $6 for a slice of pizza. I did the math in my head. It was one of my aha moments when I realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Another time I went to Costco with my grandparents. I’ve seen packets of Juicy Fruit gum with 25 cents printed on each individual packet. But if you bought them in bulk, you could get them for 12 cents a pack. For me, it was obvious. I didn’t even have to mark up the 25 cents to make nearly a 50% profit. It’s just the way my mind works.

Related: 4 Pillars for Raising Entrepreneurial Kids

Your environment can impact a naturally entrepreneurial mindset

There was also a bit of culture in my path to entrepreneurship. My environment contributed to my natural instinct. We didn’t have a lot of extra money. I would have to wait until Christmas to get the big gifts like a bike. If I wanted this bike sooner, I knew I had to make the money myself.

So for me it was a combination of need and mindset. This was the basis of my entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurial Families Can Nurture Future Entrepreneurs

Then there are the people who were born into entrepreneurial families. They see the long hours of hard work of their parents. They may even be involved in the family business from an early age. They learn to be independent. They see the ups and downs financially that can occur at the start of the business. This can certainly impact their perspective on starting their own business, either positively or negatively. Ultimately, I think you still need an entrepreneurial mindset to leverage the lessons you learned watching your entrepreneurial parents.

My colleague and fellow entrepreneur, Troy Hoffman, had a more fulfilling entrepreneurial experience. He remembers having had a teacher who had stacks of Entrepreneur magazine at the back of the class. The teacher spoke enthusiastically about starting a business. Hoffman was also inspired by his parents and a family friend, who started a successful surf shop. Seeing them build successful businesses made him want to start his own.

Related: How Having Entrepreneur Parents Honed My Own Business Acumen

Even if you’re not an entrepreneur yourself, there are things you can do to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit in your children.

Get off the beaten track

Reward thinking outside the box. Generally, our school system teaches us to do things the way they have always been done. Encourage your children to find unique solutions to real-world problems. If there is no clear solution, help them create one.

Failure is a learning experience – no risk, no reward

In my company, we have a blameless culture. I think it allows people to work creatively without fear of making mistakes. Entrepreneurs know that mistakes are part of the learning process. Make sure your children understand that mistakes are an integral part of learning and growing. Entrepreneurs have to take certain risks. Calculating the risk-reward ratio of your actions is a valuable skill in any situation, even if you don’t become an entrepreneur.

Practice your elevator pitch

If your kids ask you something, tell them you’ll consider it if they come up with a good pitch and a solid business plan. Even if it’s just a request for a puppy. Walk them through the steps – analyze their options, calculate the cost, and decide on the best route to funding. Entrepreneurs find solutions to complex problems and lead others to believe in their vision.

Is your child naturally an entrepreneur? If so, give them the freedom to explore that side of themselves. This is the quintessential lemonade stand scenario.

Alternatively, try some of the tools I’ve described to get them on the path to entrepreneurship. Even if they aren’t founding unicorn startups, the skills they learn will help them succeed in whatever they do.

Related: How to Raise Entrepreneurial Kids

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