A couple of months ago, I was talking with my two sons as I drove them both to school. On that particular morning, I found myself curious about how “I” look through their eyes. So, I asked my boys what they think my message is — how I encourage them to be and act in life.
Without pausing, both said I would say “work hard” and “be kind.” I was quite touched that, independently, they receive this kind of message from me. More often than not, entrepreneurs think about what they want their message to be. They may even curate that message via social media, shaping a persona that represents them to the world.
However, the way an online audience receives your message will definitely differ from how those in your tribe receive the message. An entrepreneur’s social media following is only privy to snippets of their lives, whereas family and children see the day-to-day realities of entrepreneurship.
If you asked your child what your message is, what would they say? I asked 13 entrepreneurs to share how their kids view their lives — and absolutely loved their candid insights.
1. If you can dream it, you can do it.
“As a green/social entrepreneurship profitability consultant, speaker, and author I take businesses beyond sustainability (status quo) to regenerativity (improving). I have modeled combining social change with small business for two decades. My kids make me a very proud papa. Their two key takeaways from me are ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’ and ‘make a difference in the world.’
My kids are adults, and they have both followed their passions and incorporated deep social change into their lives. My eldest followed multiple career paths from literary agent to chef school before deciding she wanted to teach English to adults who are struggling. She uses those skills in her volunteer work assisting immigrants in court and writing a gourmet vegetarian gluten-free food blog. My youngest has been driven by music since before they started talking and works as a musician, arts promoter, and social change catalyst with a particular emphasis on queer and of-color communities.” — Shel Horowitz, Green/Transformative Biz Profitability Expert, Going Beyond Sustainability
2. You can’t make waves standing in one spot.
“My company offers advertising and marketing advice to entrepreneurs and business owners who are interested in building a business in the real world. My daughter actually said to one time ‘You can’t make waves standing in one spot.’
Maybe it’s the Caribbean in me but she said this to me years ago. It still resonates with me to this day; so much so that I find myself telling people this all the time. Building a business takes constantly being in strategic action and making movements. Money is attracted to that movement. I tell my clients (and even myself) we have to keep moving forward. We have to keep trying new things and implementing ideas and seeing them through. If things don’t work the way we envision, then make the change, pivot and keep going. Getting stuck in strategy mode doesn’t help us. We need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone sometimes in order to reach our full potential.” — Carla Williams Johnson, Media Marketing Specialist, Carli Communications
3. You enjoy the small moments.
“I think my daughter would say my message in how I encourage her to be and act in life is to remain determined no matter what, but to enjoy the small moments! I can tell my daughter is proud of how hard I work. She’ll even sometimes pretend to work herself! Although she’s still young, she definitely notices my determination. I am incredibly consistent with my work and she sees that. I also love being goofy with her and I try to make small moments throughout the day feel more special to her!” — Liz Jeneault, Vice President, Faveable
4. You do it even if you’re scared.
“I asked my kids this question and they said my message was do it even if you’re scared or else you’ll never experience new things. It’s definitely something I repeat often to them and absolutely a practice I follow in business.” — Emily Taffel, Owner, Mugsy PR
5. Never quit being a CEO.
“As an entrepreneur for over 25 years and the mother of two children and a four year old grandchild, I have always involved my children in my work. I co-founded a law firm with my husband in 1997 when my youngest was three years old. Like any new entrepreneur, I worked grueling hours and always had my kids in the office. My first indirect feedback came when my then five-year-old wanted to have her birthday party at the office. I knew then that I was out of balance. Her feedback reflected my state at that time. I quickly made changes and dialed back the amount of time I put in.
In 2003, I spun off a nonprofit called Oasis Compassion Agency. We assisted the marginalized in our community through a holistic program of food, clothing and job placement. My kids spent summers working with me and serving the less fortunate. Their impressions of me, as told to myself and others, was that I was the kindest and most compassionate person in the world. My son, the eldest, thought I should never quit being the CEO! He loved me being a boss in that environment. Today, I teach entrepreneurs and leaders how to become Purpose Centered Leaders.” — Sharon Gill, Chief Leadership Officer, Sharon Gill International
6. You treat others like you want to be treated.
“My eight-year-old salesman, um, son, walks up to people everywhere asking if they have a will. If they do have one, is it up to date and easy to find? Then, he explains why they need Gentreo, the company I founded with three others which makes estate planning affordable and available to all of us. Liam said my message is to treat others like you want to be treated. To say that I was a bit elated to hear this is a bit of an understatement. This is a message we work hard to live by every day.” — Renee Fry, CEO, Gentreo
7. You put 100% into everything you do.
“This morning I decided to ask my kids this question. I was very curious as to what they would say. When I asked my daughter she said, work hard and put 100% into everything you do. This does match my views and work habits. I was impressed that my daughter noticed that because I truly believe working hard as an entrepreneur is key to your success.
My son, on the other hand, said, be tough and don’t be a pushover. Hearing my son say that caught me off guard. It’s true in the business world you need to be tough and can’t be a pushover or else everyone will walk all over you. I rarely show that side of me to my family and kids so for him to pick on that surprised me. This is something I need to work on. I want my son to know that being compassionate and caring is as important as being tough.” — Marcus Anwar, Co-Founder, OhMy
8. You’re good at helping people.
“When my four-year-old daughter asked me what my job is, I told her that I’m a writer. She asked, ‘Like you write books?’ I said, ‘No, I answer people’s questions online.’ And she replied, “Yeah, you’re good at that.’ I thought this was adorable because there’s no one in the world who asks me more questions than her.
To me, entrepreneurship is about helping people. It’s about identifying a problem that people share and finding a way to fix it. Kids don’t understand business, but they understand helping people. My daughter, for example, knows that our dog can’t get a can of dog food out of the cabinet by himself, so she loves going to get it for him.
Whenever business slows down or I feel like I’m not where I should be, I have to remind myself that I’m in this to help people. When I’m providing helpful information for people, the financial side figures itself out. It’s when I get too focused on cutting inefficiencies or maximizing profits, that’s when I start to lose track of my mission. It’s when I think simply, like my daughter, that I feel the happiest and most successful.” — Jeneva Aaron, Owner, TheHouseWire
9. You are so nice.
“My nine-year-old daughter’s views me as ‘you are so nice.’ This message instills her with the ability to be kind and treat others how you would want to be treated.
I do find this matches myself as I am a people pleaser. My career in customer service enabled me to utilize my love for helping people and making a small difference in their day by going above and beyond in creative ways. In my current position, my team will give me a breakdown of how their jobs went for the day. I always find myself asking them ‘Was the customer satisfied with the work and their experience?’” — Cassandra Leite, Owner, New England Foundation Crack Repair
10. You never give up.
“We asked our kids what they thought our goal and the most important feature of our business was. They responded, “never give up, no matter how difficult the task” and “always make your client happy, no matter how difficult it is.” Phew — we are doing something right! This is a great measure of feedback to gauge if you are on the right path. This is exactly what our goal and focus is and we know that we are on the right path!” — Jerryll Noorden, Owner WeBuyHousesInConnecticut
11. You let me choose.
“I asked my seven-year-old daughter this question, and she said, ‘I don’t think you encourage me to be anyone, you want me to choose for myself.’ That is not a label or a job, but her own way.
My wife and I are both independent business owners and freelancers. We haven’t had an employer in over 20 years. We work with lots of people, but she’s never seen us have a boss. It’s not just what we encourage her towards, it’s what she sees happening every day. For my wife and I, our own experiences of owning and running an online business is transforming our plans for her.
When she hits her teens, we plan on evolving from the standard chores/allowance barter every parent knows to think not about not money, but skills, experience, and independence. We plan on buying her a small online business and then helping our daughter learn how run a business and earn money for herself. It can be something she’d enjoy, like a kid’s slime business!” — Kate & Kurt Perschke, Owners, WebBabyShower
12. You try and take risks.
“I asked my 15-year old son this question. His response was, ‘Be yourself, even if it’s different from everyone else. Try new things. It’s okay to take a risk like starting a new business. Even if it doesn’t work out the way you expected, it’s better to try.’
The message of being authentic and unique is definitely something I try to share with the world. The rest surprises me a little, although it shouldn’t since he is also an entrepreneur and trying different business ideas. Hopefully, I’ve been a positive inspiration! Currently, he owns Velocity Clothes and is launching a street wear clothing brand for kids who want to be bold and different, called 99Zulu.” — Charlene “Ignites” DeCesare, CEO and Speaker, Charlene Ignites, LLC
13. Do good work!
“I am President and CEO of an educational consulting firm. We partner with institutions, like schools and colleges, to help them recruit, retain, and graduate more students, especially underrepresented students (e.g., minorities, LGBTQ, low-income).
I am also father of two wonderful kids: a daughter and son. They would say that my message is to ‘Be good and do good work!’ That’s been my advice and wisdom to them, and my students, over the years. ‘You can be anything you put your heart and mind to, but first be good.’ Be kind, positive, and aim to spread love and light in the world. Whatever you do, do good work. Strive to do your best, aim to help people, and do work that’s fulfilling. I find that my kids’ response matches perfectly with my message/narrative. ‘Do Good Work’ became the name of my firm. It’s my license plate (DoGudWrk). And that’s my message to the world.” — Terrell Strayhorn, President and CEO, Do Good Work Educational Consulting, LLC