Let’s Raise Our Kids to Be Entrepreneurs; Our Future Depends on It

Let me take you back to the 80s in Lubbock, Texas and into a classic roller skating rink called the Skate Machine…

Sticky floors, concessions, Hey Mickey playing, awkward teenage flirting on roller skates, the works. I’m 13, and I have NEVER had so much power, before or since.

You see, the Skate Machine was the place to be as a 13-year-old in 1986 in Lubbock, Texas. It was our place, the teenagers of Lubbock… the place to see and be seen. I suppose kids these days have replaced it with Snapchat or something, but this was before cell phones, before any of all that.

And my father owned it. He owned the Skate Machine.

But even though I got to pick my friends out of the line, skate behind the concession stand to grab a soda, and generally lord it over everyone (I was 13, gimme a break) my dad made sure I remembered the hard side — the part where I saw the long hours, the paperwork, the cleanup after Timmy spilled Coca Cola on the rink AGAIN and nobody else was around to get it.

While I was growing up, my dad owned that skate rink, a car lot, and a construction business. Before that, he was in sales at Xerox and worked his way up to be the top salesman in the nation. I didn’t realize it then, but that made a huge impact on me. At the time, I didn’t really know what he did, just that he was super passionate about it and that passion was instrumental to his success. I had an immense amount of pride in him.

Dad never taught me entrepreneurial skills deliberately, but I picked them up from watching him. He was obsessed with excellent customer experience, obsessed with delivering value. He strove to get things right, 100 percent.

Act as if the person you’re talking to has SO WHAT? tattooed across their head. Always think about how you’re delivering to those people and what it means to them. It’s your job to make them believe.  — My dad’s motto

More people qualify as entrepreneurs than you think

I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur until I wrote my first check, when it was my money on the line. But, really, I was an entrepreneur all along.

Whether I was a busboy or in the banking business, I thought strategically about my decisions and their long-term ramifications. I approached every job with an ownership mentality, from the bingo hall to the board room. I worked with discipline and I paid my dues. Basically, I just modeled my dad.

Entrepreneurship is borne of a desire to lead. If you want to be something better, do something better, have something better, and you go out and make it happen, well, that’s the entrepreneurial spirit. That person carrying the flag up the hill? That’s the one everyone wants to follow. That’s all it is.

So, yeah, an entrepreneur can be the leader who disrupts an industry and builds a company around an idea, but it’s also that employee who sees a process they can improve on and goes for it, like our Chief Technology Officer, Matt Smulski, who built a top notch CRM on his own time because he just had the idea he could do it better.

Entrepreneurs are those who act with a growth mindset, whether they’re the CEO of a startup or a salaried employee in a large organization. They’re risk-takers, sure, but more than that, entrepreneurs are risk-mitigators. They think about all the potential pitfalls and are prepared to act quickly to make the best of changing circumstances.

Nurturing your young entrepreneur

All human beings are born entrepreneurs. Some get a chance to unleash that capacity. Some never got the chance, never knew that he or she has that capacity. —Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Foundation

My dad might not have been an artist, but he is one of the most creative guys I know. At the root of that creativity was positivity. You can’t be creative if you’re anxious, worried, fearful, upset, angry… all those negative, shitty emotions. The best entrepreneurs find ways to manage those negative emotions into positive action. It’s different for everyone, so your process may look different than mine — but you should have a process. Find your ladder back to positivity.

You know who’s really good at not having shitty emotions? Kids.

Their brains are in a theta state, that unencumbered dreamlike state that’s the most fertile for idea formation. They can learn three languages, master the piano, figure out complex technology. I’ve heard people talk about the entrepreneurial spirit as something innately required.

Bullsh*t.  We all have it, we can all learn it, if the right effort is put in at the right time.

Like anything, it can be taught. And kids are especially ripe to learn it.

But not everyone has someone like my dad around to be their entrepreneurial model — so the more chances we can create to give kids access to entrepreneurs of all stripes, the better.

That’s one reason I’m a big fan of our Far Reaching partner (and client!) EcoRise. They’ve been doing amazing work getting students out in their communities creating real-world sustainable impact, and now they’re going to teach them how to turn that into a real business — complete with a business plan. We are so excited to do what we can to help them make that a reality.

You might not have developed a business plan in middle school like those kids will, but all those lessons you learned in Little League and since — dedicating yourself to a goal, putting in the time, taking calculated risks and failing forward, practice and more practice to really learn a craft — those are the same ones you’ll use as an entrepreneur. After all, how you do one thing is how you do all things. That’s another little something I learned from my dad.

So, what’s your entrepreneurial project? Comment below, or Tweet at me and let me know.

Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.

  • Pete Harmonson

    Cole was always right by my side willing to do whatever was necessary. Haul trash. Sweep behind my subcontractors, AMAZING. His attitude was positive and we had fun no matter what the job. I’ll tell you that your attitude is key. Better than that….we are totally in charge of it. Being popular is up to others. Respect we earn ourselves, totally up to us. Cole embodies these traits as do my other children. Thanks for the memories Cole. Awesome stuff of life. Your kids! Pops

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