Entrepreneur Early and Often

I wrote my first business proposal in second grade. I don’t remember if it was my idea or my mom’s suggestion to make it a roofing company, but I suppose putting roofs on houses is the kind of hands-on task that a second grader could imagine she understands.

You see, my mother worked for a bank, at the time, helping people get small business loans. She was tired of seeing talented people fail because they understood their trade, but didn’t know how to run a business. So one Saturday, she sat me down at the kitchen table and tasked me with starting my own company.

I budgeted out the materials for the job, pay for employees, taxes, and overhead, though I don’t think I knew that word yet. She told me to consider the amount of profit I needed to make and estimate how much to charge. I had won the second grade math bee, so she made me do all my own calculations.

For the record, I had no idea what it takes to roof a house. My materials list was something like a hammer, nails, shingles, and a ladder. But my math was right, so we played through the scenario.

Even though it was make believe, I still felt excited when an imaginary customer accepted my bid for a job. She gave me half the money up front, which I used for supplies. One of my workers called in sick, but I made some adjustments and got it covered. Things went well enough the first few days, until my mom said, “What if it starts raining?” Something like this had not occurred to me.

In our pretend scenario, it rained for 5 whole days right smack in the middle of my first job. I was shocked. I maybe panicked a little. I was in second grade, after all, and I thought I had covered all my bases. I had no idea how to handle this.

I tried to make it right. I needed to make an unexpected run to the hardware store. The budget needed to be recalculated. I was in limbo waiting on the whims of Mother Nature. Some of my employees found other jobs when I couldn’t pay them during this down time. The client was upset that the job was taking longer than estimated. Bottom line, I ended up losing $1,000 building this roof and earned myself an unhappy customer to boot.

To this day, my failure to become an imaginary roofing mogul stands out in my mind as one of the stark lessons of my childhood.

My mom went on to start a successful finance company. My dad owned his own welding business. Sometimes they would pay me as an office temp when they were short-handed or business picked up. My parents did more than just instill in me the value of knowing how to grow and run a business. Now that I have started a few successful ventures of my own, I appreciate the unique education I got growing up at the feet of two savvy small business leaders, witnessing first hand the trials and risks involved building one’s dreams.

There are a lot of skilled people out there with really good ideas. I like to be the person who knows how to make those ideas viable. Remove the obstacles. Understand the feasibility. Manage the risks. Find solutions. Get results.

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