What If Your Parents Have No Entrepreneurial Experience?
Neither of my parents were entrepreneurs. Both were raised during the Great Depression and never attended college. My mom ran our house. Dad worked in a foundry, sold candy, had a thirty-year career as a civil servant at a military installation, served as our small town’s first mayor and continued his mostly unpaid service in that position for sixteen of the next twenty years. He has an elementary school, a community service award and the snack bar at a water park named after him. How many people can say they have a bar named after them! So what could my parents, particularly my dad, teach me about entrepreneurship?
The answer is “plenty”, although I didn’t know it at the time. Despite never starting or running his own business, dad’s work ethic, ability to engage and motivate people, willingness to try new things and risk failure (if you think starting a business is tough, try incorporating and running a city), team building, never ending thirst for knowledge, problem solving ability, and focus on the customer (citizens) were all entrepreneurial traits. Dad was old school. I don’t recall him ever actually trying to teach me any of these things. He taught by doing and providing examples. The rest was up to me. We have a fancy name for this now – experiential, project based learning. What my dad would have called “gettin’ stuff done”.
In addition to these traits, my dad was married to my mom for forty-five years and raised us three kids with her. He never left the house without giving her a kiss and I can’t recall him ever missing an event, mostly sports related, that I was involved in. He treated people that worked for him with respect. He didn’t take himself too seriously and was known to wear a dress or bathing suit with makeup and a wig (womanless beauty pageant) to raise money at a school or church charity event. So let’s add ability to pick a great co-founder, loyalty, work-life balance, respect for others, community service, and a sense of humor to the list of entrepreneurial traits.
My dad helped found a city, but not a startup. He scaled some fish, but never a company. He made plenty of deals, but not with investors. He taught me most everything I needed to know to run a startup and help others do so successfully, without ever doing it himself. I only hope that I can have a similar impact on Joshua, our young entrepreneur. It is not lost on me that my dad’s legacy lives on in me and hopefully in our kids. What a blessing it was to have my dad in my life. He was my role model and mentor and I think of him every day.
THE TAKEAWAY: For all you young entrepreneurs who, like me, had a father in your life that has helped you develop your skills and knowledge, even if indirectly, I urge you to make sure they know what a positive impact they’ve had on you and how thankful you are for them. This also goes for those of you who were blessed with strong mothers who served as both mother and father. For parents who see entrepreneurial traits in your kids but feel you don’t have the entrepreneurial experience to help them, sharing your time and helping them access resources that will help them will have a significant, positive impact on their development.