Celebrating the end of my time with DEKI around this time last year, here is one of my final articles I wrote for them.
Originally published HERE.
Coinciding with Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) on 18th- 24th November of this year, and Deki’s own Tenner Tournament featuring budding entrepreneurs throughout the month of November, the subject of young entrepreneurship is very topical.
Whether the entrepreneurs in the developing country that we help, or the new up and coming entrepreneurs in our society, we need to understand the importance of this field and the skills needed for the youth of today to become successful in their entrepreneurial pursuits. For that, we turn to Cameron Herold, a business owner, entrepreneur and public speaker who speaks about nurturing entrepreneurial skills in his TED talk.
Cameron Herold is an entrepreneur who could not make it through school, but was instead raised to be an entrepreneur and to become passionate about business. His grandfathers, his father and both his siblings (brother and sister) and are all entrepreneurs and own their own businesses. This skill was a trait honed with the help of his father, an opportunity missed out in most children, leaving them ungroomed and their entrepreneurial traits left unnurtured, as society vilifies its existence compared to more respected professions such as doctors or lawyers.
Herold believes that entrepreneurship ought to be held in equal regard with traditionally accepted forms of employment, especially for the people that are seen to fit the mould of an entrepreneur.
Shunning a Skillset
The media spreads the idea that children ought to aim for really good jobs as models, singers and entertainers or athletes whereas school encourages pupils to become doctors and lawyers. Instead, Cameron Herold encourages a third stream: becoming an entrepreneur. At school, Herold was given a tutor in French because he was struggling, a skill he still ‘sucks at’ whereas he believes he should have been given a tutor to help improve in something that he was good at instead. For example, Herold won a city-wide speaking competition in second grade, but that was not focused on. The fact he was able to walk around and speak to people was overlooked, instead traditional ‘book smarts’ were focused on.
Entrepreneurs are able to see a need in the world and then stand up and do something about it by putting everything on the line. The entrepreneur’s lifestyle is not regimented and fluctuates, depending on the task at hand. For every problem out there, somebody has an idea to do something about it and that entrepreneurial spirit should be captured. The problem, Herold argues, is that children are too dumb to realise that they can actually do something about it, instead their dreams are crushed and they are forced to focus on things that may not play to their own strengths.
Instead, Herold proposes we ought to teach kids who have entrepreneurial traits how to improve upon them, and thereby kids can start businesses rather than receiving hand outs or conforming to a lifestyle uncomfortable to their pedigree. Apart from media and the education system, further academics are equally redundant for these skills: MBA programmes are not designed to teach people to become entrepreneurs, rather they train students how to work in corporations.
Herold describes himself as someone too stubborn to work for others, and possesses 18 out of 19 signs of Attention Deficit Disorder, which no doubt contributed to his struggles at school. But did he allow this to overcome, or did he act on his entrepreneurial spirit? Herold stole essays and hired people to do his assignments. His justification: as a businessman, you don’t do accounts, you hire an accountant. There is still potential in the atypical students and that must not be forgotten.
The ‘Grooming’ Process
So how was Herold encouraged to express and practice his entrepreneurial gifts? As a child, he was raised to hate the idea of having a job and love the idea of setting up his own business. Once his father discovered he would not fit into other things at school, the choice was taken away and he was taught to think for himself.
(1) He sold coat hangers to dry cleaners, negotiated and understood how a fractional percent of a cent could improve his profits
(2) He sold license plate protectors, bought at wholesale from a family friend, and sold them and understood the value of making at least one sale out of four potential deals
(3) He sold comic books, purchasing them from the poor kids to then sell them on to the rich kids: understanding the values of buying low and selling high, by realising there was high demand for the rich, but not the poor because they didn’t have the money
As the recession’s impact is still being felt, Herold points out that there is still 13 trillion dollars available in the US economy, and that entrepreneurs can still go and get it. Herold was not built to be another employee and sought out opportunities. At home, he was not allowed to entertain the idea of a job and rather had to figure out how to make more money faster. Allowances teach the wrong habits, breeding kids to expect a regular pay cheque, something entrepreneurs do not have.
Herold involves his children in games that nurture entrepreneurial skills, looking through the house for things that need fixing and making their money that way. His children are able to practice a number of different skills and values: tenacity, interdependence, integrity, sales networking, and handling failure. Even then, he gifts 50% of the money to their toy account and then the other 50% goes into their bank. Both his 9 and 8-year-old child have stockbrokers already, enforcing a savings habit at a time when they do not feel the pain yet.
Herold doesn’t read stories to his children every day, maybe only four days a week. The other times he makes his children tell him a story, which teaches them to stand up in front of others and talk. When out in public, he explicitly shows them what grumpy and bad employees look like, and then conversely show them what good ones look like, letting them know what good and bad customer service looks like and what that means to the employees and employers.
All of this can make the difference and thereby promotes the entrepreneurial spirit that may be undernourished and forgotten in modern society. Perhaps entrepreneurs ought to be equally as valued as the other professions we hold up high.