I have a couple of kids, and although they are getting older now and moving toward their adult lives, I learn from them every day. Watching them grow, learn, and develop into individuals has taught me many lessons, including how to be a better entrepreneur. It is valuable to step back and consider ways in which we can all do and be better and lessons we can draw from children and their unique approach to living, their fresh attitudes about others, and their ongoing joy in making their way through the world.
1. Kids have their own logic.
Kids approach the world with their eyes open every day. They see new things and interpret those with a fresh, clean perspective. Entrepreneurs, too, should always try to look at their business, their competition, and their market in ways others have not envisioned. Truly revolutionary ideas come from new thinking; disruption comes from leveraging existing situations and tools to cause a shift in how business is done. What are you doing differently with your business that defies conventional thought and forces new logic?
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2. Kids are curious.
Kids are curious about the world around them, how things work, and other people. They grow, change, and learn new things constantly and have an innate ability to absorb and process information quickly. Entrepreneurs can benefit from their example – be like a kid and move up the learning curve as quickly as possible: seek out new information, gather new ideas, and grow new theories. Never stop looking at how others do things and extract the best practices for your own business.
3. Kids are creative.
Kids are ever resourceful: they devise new ways to build, figure out different ways to do things, and constantly craft new solutions to challenges as they arise. They do not hesitate to make up their own answers and are not afraid of being wrong. Entrepreneurs should be fearless and inventive in their approach to business and work.
4. Kids make friends easily.
When a kid goes to summer camp, participates in organized sports, or starts at a new school, the first order of business is typically to make new friends. As adults, we slowly lose that easy ability to develop new relationships, and this serves us poorly, as relationships are at the core of most businesses, and it is easy to see how your business profits through relationships. Entrepreneurs who are weak in this area need to re-discover their own ability to make friends, appreciate people, and learn about others as they come into their life.
5. Kids make do with what they have.
When a kid approaches a new problem, they use the knowledge they have and the tools they possess to find a solution. For instance, a kid who wants to climb a large tree with branches too high to reach will sometimes lean their bike against the trunk to act as a stepladder to start their climb. A small business must also make do with the resources to accomplish goals and solve problems. Don’t have an office? Work at Starbucks. Can’t afford productivity software? Leverage Google Apps or Open Office. Be like a child: be resourceful!
6. Kids depend upon others.
Kids are dependent on one another and on the adults in their life. They need help learning, they need help getting food, and they need shelter and clothing. Who do they turn to? Us, of course. Likewise, entrepreneurs must depend on their networks, supporters, investors, and employees. Building a business can never be accomplished solely by one’s self, so good business people should ask for help whenever they can and be willing to provide help when requested.
7. Kids know how to have fun (and they like to ride bikes).
Remember riding your bike down a long hill? The sheer exhilaration, the thrill of the speed and the wind in your face. Starting a business should feel the same: scary, intoxicating, and slightly out-of-control is how it should feel. If it doesn’t, you’re probably not risking enough. If it does feel this way, keep your hands on the handlebars and watch out for the bumps!
8. Kids try things.
Before you got old enough to realize that you weren’t a very good basketball player, artist, or musician, you probably did those things just for fun and to be with the other kids who were doing those things at that moment. Great entrepreneurs often have to do things they aren’t particularly good at because there is probably no one else around who can do it for them. Not so good at accounting? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get your hands dirty with the software. Human resources just not your thing? That doesn’t mean that your employees don’t need you to have a payroll system and benefits package ready to go.
9. Money doesn’t mean much to kids.
Kids prefer candy to money. Does that mean that you, as a small business owner, should give p your profits for a quick Snickers bar? Not at all – it just means that you need to appreciate the fun things, the sweet things about building your business, and understand that the pursuit of profits, noble though it may be, is not the only reason for doing this. Mmmmm, Snickers.
10. Kids know how to entertain themselves.
How often have you seen your kid (or someone else’s) sitting and playing alone? They have an inherent ability to find their own way to be entertained. They pick up a book, a toy, a game, watch TV, ride their bike, or play with their dog. If you are bored with what you’re doing, you should probably not be doing it; when the challenge is gone, it is time for entrepreneurs to move on to the next.
I know I said ten things about kids, but there is one more that I can’t leave out:
11. Kids are picky eaters.
What is the lesson for entrepreneurs about picky eating? I don’t know, but it always amazes me how stubborn kids can be about food. Maybe it’s the stubbornness? Should entrepreneurs be stubborn? Hm. Maybe something there after all…
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