Have you noticed that many successful business owners--especially those who become successful within a short period of time--have a secret? Their secret is that is they came from a family with business experience. In many cases, business owners have produced next-generation business owners. The next generation learned by watching how their parents, aunts and uncles did it. They learned by working in their family's business. Subconsciously, they picked up the tricks of the trade without knowing it.
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Those of us who did not have the luxury of learning from our families learned by trial and error. We have little family support because our families can't relate to our entrepreneurial traits. Even though my parents ran a tutoring business for many years when I was in elementary school, they both became school administrators later in their careers. The careers they built were mostly in school systems, not privately held businesses. When I first started my consulting business, my dad told me to get a job. It's been more than 16 years, and even today, he still tells me to get a job. He believes a job offers more security than owning your own business does. In today's world, there's really not much of a difference.
Jennifer Bouani started working at her father's business at age 12. She took customers' orders and answered phones. Because she had no idea what customers wanted, she sometimes transferred calls to the wrong department. Bouani later became a consultant and worked in Fortune 1000 companies. But her childhood experience inspired her to make an impact on the future generation by teaching entrepreneurship. Today, she is the author of two children's books, Tyler & the Solve-a-matic Machine and Tyler Passes the Golden Key. Five more books are in the works. She runs Bouje Publishing with her husband, Sean. Her books have inspired many kids to start a business and guided them through starting up and making profits.
Bouani believes that members of our generation were taught to be good employees. I believe MBA programs are designed for managing Fortune 500 or publicly traded companies. Many of the successful business owners I know of don't have MBAs (that includes Bouani). Bouani's goal is to foster innovation and ideas and prepare kids to succeed in life.
Bouani's mission is clear, but she walks the walk; she has applied everything to her business that she discusses in her books. She uses focus groups to test her materials. And she markets her books not only to retailers, but also to major corporations and nonprofit organizations.
No matter what type of business you're in, there are a few things you can learn from Bouani.
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- Know your customers' needs, wants and desires. You can ask them directly or set up focus groups to query them.
- Create value for all stakeholders, including customers, vendors, shareholders and you, the owner. We all need to remind ourselves that we're in business for profit.
- Get referrals from existing customers. The best marketing comes from your customers.
I know many frustrated business owners don't want their kids to be in business because they know it takes a long time and tons of energy to get it right. But why not teach your kids about entrepreneurship? It could make a huge difference in their life.
For more about kids' and entrepreneurship, see "Is Entrepreneurship in Your Kids' DNA?"