For parents and parent figures alike the question as to when to start teaching your children about your business is a contentious one. While for many it is a realistic goal to involve their children in business in general and in their businesses specifically it is not always easy. Cultural norms in Zimbabwe dictate that children should focus on being children while adults handle complex issues. Contrast this with Middle-Eastern and Eastern cultures which almost throw children into the business deep end at a young age and you have a bit of pickle. Here are 5 moments or events that you can use as indicators that your child is ready to be included in, if not, involved in your business.
When they ask
This one is obvious but not all asking is the same. While children of all ages are genuinely inquisitive about how things work children asking to be included in the real sign that they are ready and you should be too. A baker I regularly by from involves his 14-year-old in every part of the business. The young man is the one who is asked about the baking schedule, inventory and raw materials. Not sure if the young man asked for this but he certainly is abreast of all the goings-on.
When they can handle the responsibility
Another good sign but one that is very difficult to discern is when they can handle responsibility. Responsibility ios complicated because it is partially nurtured in children; it is not just a product of age but also experience. While ageing is guaranteed, experiences are not. There is no guarantee that all 14 years olds know the same things and understand those things in the same way. Responsibility can be nurtured in business by teaching the children different elements of the business one at a time. When they master one thing, move them on to the next. So responsibility need not be complete but rather in one area to start with.
When they start having business ideas
Children who grow up in a home or setting where they are exposed to business will likely start to have business ideas of their own. These will rank from the preposterous to the good to the ones that absolutely fly over parent’s heads. If you’ve encountered this situation before you’ll know that opposing them will have you labelled a hater or whatever they call it these days. Knowing this your approach should be to encourage their journey. Your goal as a parent should be either utilise your business as a springboard for their business idea or to use your business as a training ground of business concepts.
When they have problems to conquer
Businesses solve problems, great businesses solve great problems. I started my first business at the age of 17, somewhat of a late bloomer. I solved problems which my peers valued highly but made little no sense to my parents. They did not stand in my way having dabbled in their own small businesses. Encouraging your children to monetise their problem-solving passions is a great way to help them grow in business. Sometimes your business cannot help the ideas your children have and that is ok. If there is any way your business can help I would advise you to offer and it may help them see the value in your business and want to learn more about it.
Saying every day is a bit broad but with children, they do most of their learning in the day to day activities rather than when you want them to learn. Focusing on what they call “teachable moments”. These are moments where there is an opportunity to teach a lesson. I was recently asked by a 7-year-old to sign an imaginary contract. I complied nicely only to be told I had just signed a contract to hand over all my money. Unfortunately according to the caveat subscriptor rule, the child was entitled to all my money. I signed the contract and so it is assumed I understood what I was signing. Not the ideal teachable moment but an example of one you cannot forget. The hard part is seeing teachable moments for what they are.
If you’ve followed closely you’ll probably have gathered that it is not any one of these moments that is ideal but rather all of them combined. While the ideas here are about involving your children in your business they can be applied to teaching them about business in general. It will take your mind some time to start recognising these moments for what they are but once you do it will be much easier to do so.