Keith DiMarino thinks the best way to teach your children about money is to nurture their inner entrepreneur. He should know – he’s been one since he was 15, when he and his brother started a house cleaning service, and watched his physician father develop a successful clinical practice.
Since 2002, DiMarino, a graduate of The Wharton School’s entrepreneurial management program, has been president and CEO of DocuVault, based in West Deptford, New Jersey. The multimillion dollar company is one of the nation’s fastest growing archival storage businesses.
Thinking outside the box, going against the status quo, and a tolerance for a certain amount of risk are common attributes associated with entrepreneurs. But it’s the financial aspect that DiMarino thinks needs an attitude adjustment, especially among the current “show me the money” generation. He wants young people to understand that starting and operating a successful business is not just about making money, but providing value.
“When it comes to the subject of money and savings, we fail our children,” said DiMarino. “We may give them an allowance, but we don’t teach them how to manage their earnings in a responsible way that will serve them well down the line. Parents need to become more comfortable talking to their kids about money.”
He suggests cultivating the following qualities and mindset of an entrepreneur as a good place to start:
Innovative. Be the mother (or father) of Invention.Rather than simply telling your children to get a job, encourage them to invent one around something they can get excited about. Is there a need for it? For example, starting a dog-walking business or after-school babysitting service for working parents in your neighborhood. Don’t worry about following conventions; let your child try it his way.
“Yes You Can” Attitude. Boost your child’s confidence level by creating opportunities for them to have some wins and successes in their small business ventures. Start small and keep it simple, and age appropriate, like a lemonade stand for younger kids. Plant some customers If you have to. Then back off and let them take their chance. If they fail, you’re there to help them get back up. Use the experience as an opportunity for thinking about another approach. Maybe lemonade is too 1985, how about a Acai Juice instead. Taking a chance and starting over if things don’t work out are a big part of being an entrepreneur.
Strong work ethic. If you’re not willing to do any task you ask someone else to do, you shouldn’t be running a business. No one is above any job; nothing is off limits. Teach your children to take pride in anything they do. Point out people working hard and talk about what their jobs are like. This mentality is the foundation of great customer service, which DiMarino believes is the core of any successful business.
Creative Problem-Solving. When your children complain abouta problem, have them provide one or two ways to fix it that involves filling a need or changing the way something is done. Complaints are useless, solutions are everything. Or walk them through a theoretical problem that needs solving. Such conversations stimulate curiosity about process and how it can be improved.
Economics. Seek opportunities toinsert a discussion about balancing revenues and expenses. Cater the conversation to your child’s interests to make it more meaningful. Take her bike, for example. Discuss all the elements that went into getting it to her -- design, production, materials, advertising, delivery, etc. – and that one greatly influences the other. A trip to the grocery or other store is a great place to have such talks. Keep it simple and relevant.
Entrepreneurs are good for the economy, and we need more of them. But no matter what path your child takes, giving them a strong sense of self, integrity, generosity, and the fundamentals of financial responsibility will help them become independent and productive adults. That’s the true definition of success.