As a dad of three who has started various businesses, here is how I encourage my kids to find their own path to success.

By Scott Donnell
December 09, 2020
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dad and business owner
Credit: Yeji Kim

I am a constant learner and entrepreneur with many businesses, including Hapbee (biotech), ApexLeadershipCo (school fundraising), and MyFirstSale (teaching entrepreneurship to kids). But believe it or not, I learned the most from making gecko keychains in the third grade. Those were my first steps as a kid entrepreneur, not knowing how vital those lessons were to my future success as an adult.

I believe that while everyone doesn't have to become an entrepreneur, every kid needs to learn to be more entrepreneurial. Grit, delayed gratification, budgeting, personal responsibility, persuasion, listening skills—those all come from small lessons you pick up as a kid.

And now that I'm a husband and father of three, I use my experience as a way to connect with my kids and encourage them on their own path to success. Here are 10 ways I'm teaching my kids to be successful.

Encouraging Them to Find Their 'Why'

All entrepreneurs are driven by their "why"—their passion, drive, motivation. My "why" is more important than what I sell or how I do it. And my "why" is my family. It's also a desire to make the world better and to show kids how to develop skills that will deeply impact their lives.

When my kids see my "why," they start to consider their own "why." They see me finding some of the biggest problems in the world and solving them. The world runs not on money, but on people's passion. Kids are our future, and their passion has the capacity to truly change our world.

How can you help them find their "why?" Spark a dinner conversation and talk to your kids about why you do what you do and what problems you are working to solve in the world. Ask them questions too like what passions they have and what problems they want to solve.

Teaching the Value of Community

Having a community around you is absolutely essential when it comes to becoming successful. My kids see me asking for advice from mentors, business owners, and my local community—and I'm already setting my sights on mentors for my kids.

Kids need to be supported by people other than just parents, who love them, encourage them, and help them get through tough times—and that also includes peers. That's why we created MyFirstSale.com, to build a community of young entrepreneurs. Kids need to know they're not alone, and MyFirstSale is a tribe of kids ages 5 to 15 who learn to launch a small business from their living room. Together they gain those important life skills like grit, delayed gratification, and listening to others—all while making some extra spending money. We even created Virtual Business Fairs so that we could host entire schools and groups of kids together as entrepreneurs.

Promoting Constant Learning

Thirst for learning is a critical life skill we pass on to our children. Consider the unique ways you inspire your kids to be lifelong learners. Kids have a deep curiosity inside of them, and parents have a beautiful opportunity to foster that in a way no one else can.

Here are some fun ideas to ask your kids to get them learning more: What if your house was a spaceship for an entire day, and you only ate and did what they do on the Apollo 11 spacecraft? What if your family became explorers for your next family vacation? What if your kids helped plan the entire trip from start to finish on a budget, including buying flights, hotels, where to eat, and what to wear?

At MyFirstSale.com, we also help families become entrepreneurs for a day by helping them make real products, selling them to real customers, and making real spending money. These are lessons that can stick for life.

Creating a Family Brand

Donnells make things better. Donnells are creators. Donnells fix what's broken. This is one of the most rewarding things my wife and I have done for our kids: building a family brand. Our kids understand what we want to be known for. They value the vision we've instilled in them. Kids need guidance. If you don't plan the types of seeds you want to plant in your family, your kids will be watered and nurtured by someone else.

There are resources to help you create that, including Family Brand started by a couple inspiring other parents to create culture in their home, and Mentor to Millions, a book by my mentor Mark Timm about the rewards of prioritizing family.

Doing What I Preach

Ever think to yourself, "Are my kids listening to anything I'm saying?" Surprisingly, they are. And more importantly, they're watching. No number of words can replace the power of watching what you do.

Recently, I realized my kids rarely saw me being active. How can they believe our family is healthy and active if they never see me be active? So, I changed my exercise routine to work out at home more often. And my kids love it—they're active right alongside me.

Celebrating Success in Others

The best entrepreneurs support success in others. If you can get your kids to think about others, you will have given them an incredible gift. When I was a child, my parents used to give me $100 every year. But there was a catch: I had to give it away. This taught me to consider others and sow into their lives. I'm carrying that legacy of generosity to the next generation and inspiring my kids to be givers, not takers.

Factoring in Profit

I remind my kids constantly not to sell themselves short. They're worth it. They deserve to be rewarded for what they do. When you factor in profit, you can save for the future and have enough to give back. Learning profit, which is how businesses grow, means learning to budget. Most importantly, kids need to realize when they live a profitable life, they can expand and impact more and more lives. Need help on how to teach that? Check out one of our first 12 training videos at MyFirstSale which is all about profit.

Committing Fully

Families need to know they can rely on each other. That's why I'm fully committed to everything I do, especially raising my kids. I take the same commitment I have to business, the commitment to stay no matter what comes, and I fight for that in my family.

I make sure to have some quality time with my kids every night and ask them three questions: What did you love today? What did you learn today? What was something you tried to do or tested out today? They see my commitment and consistency. And this emboldens them to be fully committed to our family—and to everything they do.

Embracing Failure

I've had almost a dozen businesses throughout my life, and not all of them have been wildly successful. I remind my kids failure is actually a good thing. As weird as that sounds, it has been crucial to my success. I encourage my kids not to fear imperfection. The only way my kids will actually believe me is if they see me power through fear and take risks, knowing that's all part of the path to success.

Modeling Integrity

My wife and I are open about the hard stuff. We try not to yell, but we have vulnerable discussions in front of our children. Our kids need to see how we deal well with conflict so they can find healthy ways to deal with emotions. Integrity is inner character, doing the right thing when no one's watching. When I see my kids confess when they've done something wrong, I well up with pride. The best way to build integrity is to celebrate good character in kids. That's the ultimate success story.

Scott Donnell is the founder of MyFirstSale.com, a learn-by-doing platform that gives kids the life skills and confidence to sell their products in a safe, friendly online environment. He is passionate about unleashing the inner genius in every kid. Scott is also President of Apex Leadership Co. and CEO of Hapbee.

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