By Paul Benedict
Faculty Member, Entrepreneurship Program at American Public University
As parents, we all have dreams for our kids. Beyond being healthy, happy, and loved, most of us want our kids to do better than we have done. We hope they don’t repeat our mistakes. Some of us want our kids to be lawyers or doctors or to serve their country in the armed forces. As for me, I hope to raise a couple of entrepreneurs.
For most of my career, I’ve been a seed stage investor, an entrepreneur and a professor teaching entrepreneurship. I’d love to see my kids (Samantha 3 1/2, George 2) grow up to be entrepreneurs. It’s not always an easy life, but I can’t think of anything more rewarding.
My Formula for Raising Entrepreneurs
If you want your kid to be an entrepreneur, teaching her to code is as good a place to start as any. Marc Andreessen is right, software is eating the world. This can be done in a fun way that brings the family together away from a screen. I highly recommend the Robot Turtles board game!
More important than particular skills for entrepreneurs is their mindset. Be relentlessly positive around your kids. Entrepreneurs are optimists.
Be an enthusiasm enthusiast. Don’t push your kids in a direction they don’t want to go. Expose them to lots of things: sports, music, art, a cause–anything. Let them find their passion and give them the space to embrace that passion.
Model being motivated by doing something bigger than yourself. Money can be a way to keep score, but it’s not what motivates the best entrepreneurs I’ve been privileged to know and work with. They are driven by an urge to solve big problems for lots of people.
With that in mind, play games with your kids that solve problems. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about technological innovation. Technology enables improvements to our society. Entrepreneurship is really about solving customers’ problems in ways that others haven’t thought to do.
Encourage your kids to sell. It doesn’t matter what they sell. It can be as innocent as lemonade or Girl Scout cookies. They can even raise money for a good cause. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of Shark Tank, sold vacuum cleaners door to door as a kid. Teach your kids to be active listeners to find out what people want and need and give it to them.
Encourage your kids to compete. Teach them how to be good winners and good losers. It’s good if they hate to lose, especially if they are gracious about it and learn from it.
Childhood is one of the best times to stretch creative boundaries and to really reach for the sky. Are you raising an entrepreneur? What tips do you have for taking them down this path?
About the Author
Paul Benedict is a seasoned seed-stage investor, executive and entrepreneur. Paul earned his BA in political science from Ohio University and his MBA from Ohio State. He lives in Athens, Ohio with his wife, 2 young kids and 2 dogs. The Benedicts are a high energy, competitive bunch. The family motto is: If you didn’t keep score, it didn’t happen. In his spare time, Paul likes to work out, cook and play guitar.