How To Grow A Ceo

Developing the instincts for running a business starts at a very early age. Here's what the experts say can prepare your child to sit in the CEO's chair.

got to make things,” enjoys the exposure to business that she’s receiving from her parents. She watches them, she says, and while she may not always have a clear sense of what’s going on, she is getting a birds-eye view of important business skills like networking.

According to Comer, the Maurice Falk professor of child psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut, exposure is a critical element engaging a child’s interest. In his recently published book, Waiting for a Miracle: Why Schools Can’t Solve Our Problems–and How We Can (Dutton, $24.95), Comer makes a case for exposing all African American youngsters, even kindergartners, to entrepreneurship to help make up for centuries of being “illegally and systematically closed out of the economic process.

However, there can be too much of a good thing. “Don’t push too hard,” he advises. “You can show interest and excitement, but the child has to feel it for himself.” He warns that most family businesses don’t last beyond the third generation because children often refuse to follow in their parents’ footsteps. He recalls taking his children to Wall Street when they were young to help whet their appetites for business. “They both
became writers instead,” he chuckles. He reminds parents to expose their children to different experiences, so they can make good choices for themselves later.

Once you’ve incited your child’s interest, say the experts, you then need to follow up with support. “It’s important that parents not say no at the front end,” says Benno D. Pattison, adoptions specialist at Kidsway Inc., an Atlanta-based concern that publishes the Young Entrepreneur newsletter and sells informational kits for children interested in starting their own businesses. Brainstorming is an important activity in this regard. Experts recommend that parents tap into the interests their child has already, and encourage him or her to be imaginative about the possibilities. They also suggest that parents be there to ask questions that will prompt the child to think critically about such an undertaking, such as what kind of product or service the child wants to offer; who the customers will be; how much will he or she charge; what kind of profit will he or she make; and what kinds of supplies will be needed.

If your child has trouble coming up with an idea, step in and take a more “proactive stance,” says Emmanuel Modu, author of The Lemonade Stand: a Guide to Encouraging the Entrepreneur in Your Child (Gateway Publishers, $19.95) and founder of the Center for Teen Entrepreneurs in Newark, New Jersey. “Most kids don’t come up with ideas on their own,” he says, “so you have to help them along.” Indeed, parents can use the summer, when children are out of school and often complaining about not having enough to do, to suggest that they start a business and to point out the range of opportunities that might exist in their neighborhood
like child, lawn or pet care or computer graphics and consulting.


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