Many of the lessons in entrepreneurship I’ve learned over the years were seeds planted during my time in the Boy Scouts of America. Through the Boy Scouts, I learned leadership, personal finance, and other skills that have come to my aid countless times in my career in corporate America and as a freelancer.
One of the best courses in beginning entrepreneurship I’ve ever come across came from the Entrepreneurship merit badge. Even for a veteran business owner, there are some useful tips you can pick up by completing the requirements and reading through the Entrepreneurship pamphlet and worksheet.
About Boy Scout Merit Badges
For the unfamiliar, the Boy Scouts of America is an organization aimed at teaching young people leadership and other life skills that can be useful far beyond their youth. Merit badges are awards that are earned after completing a list of requirements related to a particular topic. Some merit badges are required to earn the Eagle Scout Award, while others are optional, similar to a college elective.
To earn the merit badge, Scouts must work with an adult leader in their troop or community to complete a list of requirements. You can find a list of requirements for Entrepreneurship merit badge here.
The Boy Scouts have also put together a worksheet that Scouts can use while completing the merit badge requirements. You can find that worksheet here.
Complete the Requirements
Requirement 1: In your own words, define entrepreneurship. Explain to your merit badge counselor how entrepreneurs impact the U.S. economy.
As a small business owner, it is important to understand what it means to be a business owner, and how your business fits in with the greater economy. Think through your business structure, including the clients and employees you support, and you will have a much better understanding of your business, and how it fits into the surrounding business ecosystem.
Requirement 2: Explain to your counselor why having good skills in the following areas is important for an entrepreneur: communication, planning, organization, problem solving, decision making, basic math, adaptability, technical and social skills, teamwork, and leadership.
As the founder of a startup or owner of a business, even a solo freelancing business, you wear many hats. I am the president, CEO, accountant, bookkeeper, content producer, social media manager, paralegal, and more for my business. By understanding the many roles you play in your company, you are better able to grasp the skills you need for success. Sometimes that may mean recognizing and working to improve on a weakness.
Requirement 3: Identify and interview an individual who has started a business. Learn about this person’s educational background, early work experiences, where the idea for the business came from, and what was involved in starting the business. Find out how the entrepreneur raised the capital (money) to start the business, examples of successes and challenges faced, and how the business is currently doing (if applicable). Discuss with your counselor what you have learned.
Working as an entrepreneur in a vacuum can be a lonely road. In addition, isolation might keep you from learning important business management skills you could pick up from networking with other entrepreneurs. Rather than working with a merit badge counselor on this requirement, you can find another business owner and take them out for a coffee. Just by meeting them and learning about their business, you could be picking up great strategies you can use to improve your own business. If you don’t know other local business owners, check out sites and apps like Meetup, Shapr, and Founder Dating.
Requirement 4: Think of as many ideas for a business as you can, and write them down. From your list, select three ideas you believe represent the best opportunities. Choose one of these and explain to your counselor why you selected it, and why you feel it can be successful.
I know that one of my biggest entrepreneurship problems is too many business ideas. Take a few minutes to brain-dump different business ideas on paper or a note-taking app to see what is rattling around in that entrepreneurial mind of yours. Who knows? Maybe you’ll come up with your next billion-dollar idea!
Requirement 5: Create a written business plan for your idea that includes all of the following: a product or service; market analysis; financial; personnel; promotion and marketing.
A business plan is not required for startup success, but it can’t hurt! A business plan is a written strategy that you plan to follow to see your business succeed. Defining your product or service and giving the target market an honest analysis will show if you are on the right track. If you ever plan to seek outside investments in the future, a business plan may be required.
Requirement 6: When you believe your business idea is feasible, imagine your business idea is now up and running. What successes and problems might you experience? How would you overcome any failures? Discuss with your counselor any ethical questions you might face, and how you would deal with them.
This is where the merit badge ends and real life begins. Unlike the young men involved with Boy Scouts, you are an adult and an entrepreneur already. This is not hypothetical; this is real life. From the lessons you learned completing requirements one through five, look at your existing business or an example you came up with in requirement four. What challenges do you or might you face? How do you or would you overcome them?
Lifetime Learning is Key to Success
The most successful business owners are lifelong learners. There is always something you can improve if you challenge yourself and your business to reach new levels of success. By walking through the requirements of entrepreneurship merit badge, you are adding a new and unique perspective to your arsenal of ideas to reach business success for many years to come.