How to teach entrepreneurship to kids

What did you want to be when you were growing up? A doctor? An astronaut? An entrepreneur? It’s unlikely that you chose the latter because starting a business is not often on a kid’s to-do list. Yet, with the global workforce shifting to part-time, freelance, or self-employed work, having financial and entrepreneurial knowledge will become as important as knowing how to read and write.

Children should be exposed to entrepreneurial skills early on, so that they are comfortable and confident managing their own money one day. But they’re not yet getting that exposure. Only 19% of respondents to research conducted by the Sage Foundation and Livingfacts said they discussed money matters with their families when they were young. Those who did were more likely to own a business today.

Here are a few ways that parents and teachers can start teaching children the mechanics of running a business and being financially independent.

  • Turn it into a game. If you want to bore a child, talk to him about debt and interest. Children learn through play, so when you’re talking about money, make it fun. Whether it’s a family game of Monopoly or setting up a make-believe shop, think of engaging ways to teach children the value of money.
  • Go back to basics. Encourage your child to turn something she loves into a business. If she loves animals, she could walk the dogs in the neighbourhood. Let her come up with a name for her business and help her to set prices and create flyers to hand out to neighbours. When she’s made her first wage, explain the importance of reinvesting a portion of it back into her business.
  • Look for opportunities for growth. A dirty dog is an opportunity for your child to expand her services to include dog grooming. If lots of dogs need a scrub, she can ask her friends to help and pay them part of her fee. Now she’s a real entrepreneur – she’s scaled her business, created job opportunities, and provided additional value to her existing customers.
  • Watch it grow. Humans are visual learners. We remember more of what we see than what we hear. When teaching your child how to save money, label three glass jars with the words ‘save’, ‘spend’, and ‘share’. He’ll feel a sense of accomplishment watching his savings jar slowly fill up, until he has enough to buy a toy he’s been wishing for.

Encourage him to save at least 10% of his pocket money and anything extra he earned helping at the dog wash. Divide the rest between the ‘spend’ and ‘share’ jars. He can use that money to buy dog shampoo and to donate to the local SPCA. Essentially, you’re teaching him the importance and value of budgeting.

  • Teach the hard lessons. Running a business is not always fun and often means doing things you don’t want to – like picking up dog poop. Entrepreneurs learn how to get comfortable with sacrifices, failure, and sleepless nights. Some weeks, there won’t be any dogs to walk, or a rainy day could ruin your child’s plans to wash the car for extra money. She might feel like she’s failed. Teach her resiliency and to try again tomorrow.
  • It’s not only about money. Successful entrepreneurs are just as good at the softer skills of business as they are at managing money. Teach your child how to have engaging face-to-face conversations, how to write an email using full sentences and no text speak, and how to respect the decisions of others.
  • Take part in Entrepreneur Day. School entrepreneur days have evolved from the traditional bake sale. Today, children are taught how to build businesses around their talents and passions; they learn about problem-solving, target markets, budgets, and product improvement. Help your child make the most of his next Entrepreneur Day at school. He won’t be able to walk and wash dogs, but he can sell the dog biscuits he made, while advertising his walking and grooming services.
  • Give back. Every business owner has a responsibility towards his or her community. Teach your child the value of making a difference by encouraging her to walk and wash shelter dogs for nothing more than the pure enjoyment of giving homeless animals some love and attention. She’ll learn humility and the joy of helping those less fortunate.

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers, to help grow the economy, boost skills, and create jobs. I can’t think of a more significant role for our children.

Ready to scale up your business? Here are 8 places to start

There’s a lot to think about when starting a business. There’s even more to think about once you’ve made it through the start-up phase and are ready to grow. The most important focus area should be your people – your customers and your staff – and how you can build the strongest team to delight your customers.

Here are eight places to start:

Be noticeable. A clear, compelling message tells prospective clients what makes you different. The most successful businesses focus on providing friendly, efficient customer service and highlight their unique selling points. You might be ‘just another book shop’, but if you donate a book to underprivileged schools with every sale you make, that’s something to shout about.

Get online. 82% of smartphone users research products online and 45% read reviews before deciding to buy something. If you don’t have an online presence, get one fast. The biggest mistake any business can make is thinking that it doesn’t need a website. You do. Your website, social media pages, and newsletter are the quickest and easiest ways to let customers know about new products, promotions, and other important news. There are plenty of free tools you can use, like WordPress and Wix, to create your website – and you don’t need coding knowledge.

Make it an experience. As a consumer yourself, you know there’s a lot of choice out there. Make it easy for your customers to decide. Know what they want, what they expect, and how you can solve their problems. Then delight them with your service and always go the extra mile – 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, which will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

Expand your horizons. Entering new markets is an obvious way to grow but, before you do, take the time to research and understand your new competitors, threats, opportunities, and trading environment. You’re also serving a different customer base – get to know them because you might need to change your product or service to meet their expectations.

Build a strong team. Your team is as important as your customers. They’re your brand ambassadors; the ones on the frontline who deliver on the promises your brand makes. If you don’t have the skills internally, and don’t have the time or resources to upskill your existing team, hire the best person you can afford – the one with the most experience who is also a good cultural fit and shares your brand’s values.

Plan to succeed. Business plans help everyone focus on a common goal. But they shouldn’t be complicated or set in stone. Dynamic, living business plans should be able to adapt to changing markets, regulations, and customer needs. Keep it short and focused on short-term, achievable goals, and revisit it every month to make sure you’re on track.

Take your software to the cloud. Cloud accounting software, like Sage One Invoicing, automates many financial and HR functions. Create quotes and invoices, check and replenish stock, and manage your team – from anywhere, on any device. This frees up your time to focus on everything else on this list.

Get on top of your cashflow. You’ve heard the phrase, you need to spend money to make money. This is especially true for growing businesses. You’ll need to invest time and financial resources into understanding your new markets, and then marketing to your ideal customer. Before you do this, make sure there’s more money coming into your business than there is going out, so that you don’t go insolvent.

It’s hard work growing a business. But if you can tick off a few things on this list, and you focus on building a strong team that’s passionate about customer service, you’re well on your way.

Why accountants shouldn’t fear the bots

By Ed Kless, Senior Director, Sage Accountants

Accountants are worried that bots will take their jobs, and rightfully so. ‘Robots’, or artificial intelligence, can do many accounting functions faster and more accurately than humans could ever hope to. This is not a bad thing. Handing over the mundane, repetitive tasks to automation will free up accountants’ time to focus on becoming advisors who add real value to their clients’ businesses.

Yet, they’re still resisting. Not in the sense of the ‘saboteurs’ of 1800 France, who destroyed weaving machines with wooden shoes – or sabots – because they were worried that the machines would replace them. Rather, they’re resisting by refusing to evolve from the way accounting has always been done, which is to sell their hours, rather than their value.

Sage’s annual Practice of Now research found that 49% of accountants across the world are happy to automate things like diary management, number crunching, and data entry. But what about the other 51% who still bill clients by the hour to balance books and process receipts?

Efficient vs effective

Everyone is trying to get more done in less time, and accountants are no exception. Yet, if they’re not going to embrace automation to help them to do this, accountants have only one other option: reduce their rates and join the race to the bottom. It’s not fun down there. They’ll have to work a lot harder and employ more people just to meet their own targets.

In the end, they might be efficient but they’re not effective in becoming the trusted financial and business advisor that 42% of customers are looking for.

Successful accountants are those who create value not only for their clients but for themselves as well. They realise that their time is valuable and that it’s no longer feasible to sell one hour of their time, to one client at a time. If they’re the cheapest in the business, they’ll never generate wealth for themselves this way.

Respect your own time

As soon as accountants stop fearing automation and allow the bots to take on the grunt work, they’ll have more time on their hands to turn their focus inward – to learn new skills and to brush up on their industry knowledge, so that they can help their clients prepare for an uncertain future.

That’s where their value lies. Not in their hours, but in what they know and how their intelligence can move the needle for their clients. As they build their expertise, accountants start creating a non-rival asset: value, which can be repackaged and sold multiple time in the same hour. Focus shifts from selling time, which is finite, to selling value, which is priceless.

Redefining value

The client-accountant relationship is changing, requiring deeper conversations about how clients define value, and how accountants can help create it. To do this, we need to free up time.

Artificial intelligence and automation can change how accountants do things, so that they can do new things. That’s where their value lies. Not in their hours.

*Listen to Ed Kless discuss the accounting practice of the future in the #NextGenAccounting Podcast series.