Ever since I’ve had kids, I’ve wanted to instill the entrepreneurial spirit inside them. I’ve experienced the freedom and amazing lifestyle that entrepreneurship can provide, so I focus on making sure they are exposed to it as much as possible.
One of the main skills of entrepreneurship is spotting opportunities, which are usually disguised as problems that most people overlook. This skill is extremely valuable and something that will allow your kids to be self-reliant for many years to come. I’ve come up with a simple way to create the habit of "opportunity spotting."
First off, I don’t give my kids an allowance for doing chores. Chores are mandatory tasks that should be done because they are part of being in a family unit that works together and helps each other out. They shouldn’t be paid to engage in that. On the other hand, giving an allowance for the sake of teaching them how to manage their funds is another story. As long as they don’t associate it with an exchange for completing their household responsibilities.
Kids want to buy things. They ask for things. Some of those things require saving up money and waiting. I tell my kids that there are opportunities everywhere to earn money and it’s a matter of noticing problems and then finding or creating a solution to those problems. I give them examples of businesses that they understand, and then explain that the founder noticed certain problems and started the business to solve certain people’s problems.
One simple example I gave them was a house-cleaning company. The problem there is that lots of people are too busy to clean their houses well, and another problem was that many local companies were charging too much to clean customers’ houses. This cleaning person started an affordable cleaning company to solve these homeowners’ problems. Everyone is happy.
This is a very basic example, but kids will easily understand something like this. They understand the problem, and understand the basic exchange of money for the solution. Many times when we are out and about, I’ll point out a business and explain the problem that they are solving and how they are getting paid. I don’t force it down their throats (most kids hate that), I just casually discuss it when it comes up.
I let my kids know that if they see a mess around the house, or something needs to be done outside, they should come to me to make a deal. They should explain the issue to me, and then make me an offer to correct the issue. These are small tasks for small amounts of money, but it gets them in the habit of having that "opportunity" filter where they always on the lookout.
As we all know, opportunities to solve problems in this world can come from unexpected places, so when you’re trained to notice them, you’re much more likely to benefit from these opportunities.
My older daughter may hear my wife complaining about a sore back and offer to rub it for $3 -- done! She solves a problem to get paid. When there are leaves all over the deck and I haven’t had time to get rid of them, one of my kids may make an offer to take care of it.
One bonus lesson that they get with this is learning to negotiate. Sometimes I counter their offer and go back and forth about price. We have fun with it and the kids really get a kick out of negotiating. Obviously, learning to properly negotiate is another huge skill that all successful entrepreneurs need to know how to do well. Starting kids out at an early age will put them way ahead on that learning curve.
My kids love to earn money so they can buy the things they want. They feel so proud of themselves when they earn money and go shopping. This self-reliant trait will carry on with them for the rest of their lives, and it puts me at ease knowing that my kids know how to make things happen from nothing.
One thing I make clear is that if I notice the problem and ask them to solve it, it doesn’t count because they didn’t find it on their own. That’s what keeps them always on the lookout. As they get older and become adults, they will be able to capitalize on many opportunities that will allow them to live a life on their terms as opposed to being forced into doing jobs they hate just for a paycheck.