Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences encompass most kinds of intellectual function, but if we were to add another it might be the intelligence of The Dealmaker. Some individuals seem to have a gift for making good decisions around material objects, a knack for trading and leveraging that plays itself out in schoolroom transactions well before it pays off in success in the business community later on.
Conducting transactions around material objects seems to be hardwired into the human spirit, and even in non-materialistic cultures there is still the need to make decisions about allocation and accountability. Where elders are in charge of these matters, it is because their longer experience has given them a certain perspective and wisdom, a perspective and wisdom that we believe can be gained even at a young age when children are given the opportunity to participate in a culture’s economic activities.
A part of some of the suggestions in the Business and Entrepreneurship section involves “giving back” to the community by contributing a percentage of any profits made to come worthy charitable cause of the child’s choice. If the object here is to strengthen the youngster’s capabilities as a businessperson, it is also about building a sense of social responsibility.
IDEA #8. Earn a sum of money with a simple business you think up and run all by yourself. Then find a charity you believe in and contribute a tenth of what you earned.
The one-person street corner lemonade stand is the classic first business, and the young entrepreneur can learn a great deal from even something so simple—material costs, price-setting, inventory control, even labor costs. Whatever the nature of the business, the essentials remain the same: to keep income ahead of expenses and to find ways to keep customers satisfied.
The major decision to be made, of course, is the nature of the business itself. Perhaps it plays to the strengths of the child, either as something that can be made and sold or a service based on a particular interest or ability. Is there an interest in the product, a probable customer base? Can the product be created and sold at a price point that ensures profit? What are the possible pitfalls and problems that could arise?
Once the business has been decided on, the next steps are to determine details such as the nature of advertising, location, quality and quantity of materials needed, and when the business will actually be in operation. Once these things are decided on, the business can open.
NOTE: Certain kinds of businesses, and children of a certain age, will require a certain amount of adult monitoring. Unforeseen issues may arise with customers, local regulations, and losses—to name a few—and the youngster may need some adult back-up to assist with troubleshooting. If the business seems to be headed for a total loss, some adult wisdom will be necessary to determine when to pull the plug and to reflect on what went wrong. In business as in so many areas, failure is one of the very best teachers.