The media’s fascination with young entrepreneurs gives off the impression that all of America’s businesses are being run by messy-haired twenty-somethings who quit college and started their first company in their teens. The truth is, the number of businesses started by people 30 years and younger has declined by 65% since the 1980s. This is an alarming statistic.
If we want to raise kids who think like entrepreneurs, we need to give them the space, creativity, and discipline to do so.
Ahead of Small Business Saturday, here are five lessons to help prepare your children for a successful career as an entrepreneur.
1. Land the helicopter
Our natural instinct as parents is to protect our children, often to their detriment. Let your children experience and embrace stress. The entrepreneurs of tomorrow are problem solvers. Empower your children to solve problems and overcome obstacles on their own. Give guidance when necessary, but let them fall on their face every now and then.
2. Help them learn to love work
The unemployment rate of 20-24 year olds is the highest of any age group by almost double (excluding those younger than 19 years old). Lack of work experience only makes this problem worse. Encourage your kids to take any job opportunities they can find: waiting tables, pouring coffee, flipping burgers, or any other entry-level job. These types of jobs teach time management, interpersonal skills, and communication skills: the foundation for any successful entrepreneur.
Related: 18 Under 18: Meet the Young Innovators Who Are Changing the World
3. Treat them like adults
Technology can hinder the development of basic communication skills, which are a learned skill. Bring your kids into adult conversations, adult situations, and push communication development at an early age. The steady shrinking of attention spans has made the ability to focus a huge challenge. Parents are helping kids give up on hard work, instead of pushing it. Encourage your children to finish everything they start.
The average American lost a third of their wealth in the most recent recession. Our children, whether Gen Z or Gen Y, have seen this firsthand. They’ve witnessed job loss. Encourage your children to work hard to keep and maintain their jobs. Don’t give them an easy out and push them to succeed in the real world outside of living at home.
4. Advise them to think carefully about their major
Entrepreneurship is much more than just a concept; you must have a product or service to sell. With limited job exposure and work experience, students typically select majors based on guess work and then the career follows. Encourage your child to seek out mentors, career counselors, and job shadowing opportunities that can later be turned into a business.
5. Encourage them to take business classes
Taking a variety of business classes will make your children well-rounded. Encourage your child to take classes in finance, economics, and accounting so they can understand the inner and outer workings of a successful business. Focus on building experience. Find entrepreneurial internships and work for entrepreneurial companies. Entrepreneurs come from ideas, and ideas come from of exposure.
Matt Stewart is co-founder of College Works Painting, which provides business experience for thousands of college students each year. The award-winning program also offers high-quality house-painting services for homeowners.