How to Raise a Successful Entrepreneur



It's almost a wonder that we have any entrepreneurs.

I think you will agree with these observations. First, job security and a sustainable, predictable income are highly valued qualities. Second, as we mature we become increasingly averse to taking risks.

At the age of 23, I was a young man with two beautiful children and I experienced all of these pressures first hand. However, I plunged into entrepreneurship anyway and as I have traveled this path I have recognized our need to raise generations of young entrepreneurs along with the challenge of doing so. I believe this is critically important because ultimately they are the ones who will create opportunities for the generations to come.

It's time to rethink how we raise our children. We need to give them the tools and the attitudes that will allow them to be successful entrepreneurs, should they choose to take their lives and careers in that direction. Here's some of what I believe we need to do.

Encourage optimism. Children are naturally optimistic and we need to nurture that quality so it stays with them as they grow older. Entrepreneurs are risk takers and to repeatedly take risks, they must be optimistic about the outcome. The key here is to maintain your children's optimism through their failures. If not handled property, failures can cause us to turn inward and only choose the "safe" paths.

Encourage adventure, spontaneity and creativity. Entrepreneurs are always venturing into new, uncharted territory. Children love this, but we tend to grow out of it as the years pass by. Encourage your children to try new things and to experiment. If you watch movies you will occasionally hear a character say, "That's just crazy enough it might work!" Ideas that are "outside the box" seem crazy to the average person, however, occasionally these are the ideas that create whole new industries.

Encourage the art of persuasion. You don't have to do a lot here! Children are naturally adept at the art of persuasion – ask any parent. However, listen to your children and respond to them thoughtfully. Don't shut them down with an immediate and forceful "No!" In the same way, if they begin to move from persuasion to manipulation, let them know the difference and help steer them in the right direction.

Practice and model unconditional love. Fear of loss is something that can prevent us from realizing our potential. The greatest fear is losing the love of someone you love and admire because you let them down. Let your children know that your love doesn't depend on their success. You love them just as much when they don't get the results they had hoped for.

Encourage the art of sales. One way or another, the first job of every successful entrepreneur is sales. At age 12, Tony Ksieh, CEO of Zappos started a mail order business making photo buttons that people could pin on their clothing and backpacks. That was a natural lead in to an online mail-order company selling shoes. Whether its cookies, lemonade or photo buttons, create an environment in which your child can experience sales.

Teach financial literacy. If your children want to start a small business, invest in it, but teach them that you expect a return on your investment – it's not free money. Encourage your children to invest their money and evaluate how their investments perform. Let them learn first-hand how money "works."

Develop communication skills. Without interfering, observe how your children communicate with their friends. Coach them when you spot a weakness. Being able to articulate a vision and have others "catch it" is central to the success of an entrepreneur.

Another element of communication is being able to express our feelings. Being the "strong silent type" doesn't work for an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs experience many challenges and emotional struggles and those must be shared with loved ones. Otherwise we isolate ourselves and those around us can't understand what's going on or be able to help us out.

Introduce your children to different cultures. Entrepreneurial success today happens in the context of a global marketplace. It's important to understand and respect the beliefs and traditions of all cultures. Fortunately, children naturally are not prejudiced or racists and that makes it easy to teach this respect. As adults, they will be better prepared to communicate and work with others – no matter where they come from.

Recognize your children's talents. We can accomplish much more when we understand our strengths, build them even more and apply them to all of our efforts. In the same way, we need to understand our weaknesses and know that we can partner with others who are talented in those areas. Encourage your children to participate in a wide variety of activities, helping them discover and develop their talents. Be at their sides to give them support and guidance when they need it.

As you encourage the strengths in your children, help them see the strengths in their friends. Let them know that in virtually every endeavor, and especially in the start-up world, success comes by putting together the best team and that means finding people whose talents complement one another.

Take your children to work with you. If you're an entrepreneur, try bringing your children to work occasionally. Let them see what you do and meet your co-workers. If they are so inclined, it might even develop into working alongside you when they are old enough. Not only do they get an introduction to business, you get to spend more quality time with your children. It's a win-win! Kids naturally learn by imitating their parents. Take some time and watch the movie "Chef" by Jon Favreau. It does a great job illustrating this point!

Nurture independence and leadership. By definition an entrepreneur is a leader who "breaks away from the pack" to pursue a new business vision. Honestly, not everyone is wired to be an entrepreneur, but encourage your children to be leaders. They need to have the strength to pursue dreams that differ from those of their peers.

As you scan this list, you'll see that these require a deft touch from parents. You need to give your children room but always be observing and stepping in when it's appropriate. I know how tough it can be to stand back and watch a child make a mistake or fail. This makes raising children more challenging, but also more rewarding.

 Finally, I hope you share my vision and desire to raise our children in a way that promotes greater entrepreneurship. I believe it's best to create a world where our children can look around and see many avenues to success. Each can then find his own best path and know a unique definition of success, and frankly having an entrepreneurial spirit is a great quality no matter which direction your children take their careers.


About Hamzeh Al Fuqha:

Hamzeh Al Fuqha is a serial entrepreneur, inventor and angel investor. He founded Next Presentations and co-founded SmartAd. Hamzeh is a frequent speaker at industry seminars and guest lecturer at the American University of Sharjah on entrepreneurship and leadership. He has received several awards and won numerous national public speaking and debating competitions. Hamzeh has trained various public figures and high-level managers on executive communication skills and speech delivery techniques.



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