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Why don’t we talk to children about business?

Robert Glazer

Basketball player. Scientist. Firefighter.

These were the answers to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” in my daughter’s fifth-grade yearbook,

But one response — from Chloe, my daughter — was very different from the others: marketer.

After getting a look from my wife and snickers from friends, I asked why she hadn’t chosen something related to singing or dancing, two of her passions. Her response: “It’s not very likely I could make a living from either of those. They will probably be my hobbies.”

Who am I to argue with that logic?

Basketball, ballet, business?

Given the number of Chloe’s classmates who will end up in business, why is it taboo to teach kids about it?

Kids with an early aptitude for tennis, ballet or gymnastics are whisked off to camps, lessons and classes. If Chloe were a sports prodigy, she’d miss school, travel to compete and be coached by an expert.

Instead, she shows an interest in — and talent for — business. While kids look to emulate their parents, I believe it goes beyond that for her. At bedtime, she asks smart questions about my job and discusses concepts like revenue and profit margin.

She asked recently, “If I have a product I want to sell to Target, do I pay Target, or does Target pay me?” This prompted a conversation about wholesale versus retail pricing, which she understood 10 years before I did.

Signs your child has a knack for business

  1. She’s not a rule follower. Most entrepreneurs inherently think outside the box. Business-savvy children want to understand why rules exist. If they break them, it’s usually not because they want to cause trouble, but because they believe there’s a better way.
  2. She’s unfazed by peer pressure. Entrepreneurs rarely follow, seeing things beyond the mainstream. Many entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with said that they were outsiders as children. They had the confidence to not do what everyone else was doing. My parents refused to camp out overnight to buy the latest fad toys; it wasn’t part of their value system. I wasn’t influenced by what other kids did or bought, so I was confident in making my own decisions.
  3. She’s a money maven and a workhorse. Entrepreneurs understand and are motivated by money at a young age. They’re empowered by working to earn money, and associate earning with effort. They start working young, whether they’re babysitting or shoveling snow. For two years, my daughter pursued a mother’s helper job. Last spring, at age 11, she started a few days a week. We didn’t push her, and she finds the $2 she earns per hour very rewarding.

A parent’s dilemma

Those of you with business-oriented children can relate to my dilemma: Where do we go from here?

I didn’t tap into some of my business or leadership abilities until well into my 20s and early 30s — and regret that. I’d like to help Chloe avoid my mistakes and reach her full potential.

Business and leadership camps or programs for kids are few and far between. I also worry that they’d put Chloe in an uncomfortable position, raising eyebrows among family or friends. The irony is that many of these people have their aspiring doctors in private math groups and their athletes in year-round club sports — despite the fact that it’s statistically unlikely any will make it to the pros.

During our bedtime chats, I answer Chloe’s questions about business, talk about the good and bad decisions I’ve made, provide examples of good leaders and share my favorite leadership quotes.

My hope is that she’ll find herself equipped for college, her first job and a business world that demands new employees be job-ready. Who knows? Maybe she’ll take over my business someday.

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