Business 101

Action is the foundational key to all success. – Pablo Picasso
Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil. – J. Paul Getty

Summer job season is upon us. University and college students have been out of classes for more than a month and most are working hard earning money towards next year’s tuition. High school students are finishing up their classes soon and are looking for summer jobs, if they haven’t found something already. My daughter is in the high school group, looking to break into the job market this summer. Up until now she has done volunteer work and helped her brother with door-to-door marketing for his window cleaning franchise (see Growing an Entrepreneur). She learned how to create a resume and cover letter in Careers class. And to make things easier, she found an online tool called ResumeGenius to guide her through entering information and formatting it using a beautiful template.

Luckily, the jobless rate is at a historically low level – the lowest in 43 years according to the CBC. Employment among 17-24 year-old students has increased compared to last year. Interestingly, most of the job gains were in self-employment. So perhaps my daughter won’t need that resume after all! Here are some self-employment options for a young person like her to consider:

  • People and Pets: The traditional high-school jobs of babysitting, pet sitting, dog walking or tutoring are just as relevant today as they were when I was a high school student. Instead of a resume, students will need to rely on word-of-mouth referrals. This is where parents and family friends can be great advocates!
  • Odd Jobs: My daughter could build on her brother’s example to take on window washing, painting, cleaning or yard & garden maintenance. There are lots of opportunities for earning money by helping your neighbours check items off their ‘To-Do’ lists!
  • Internet: Technology-savvy kids have innovative new opportunities to earn money online. Creative kids can create a blog, podcasts or YouTube content and look to add subscriptions or advertisements as they gain popularity. Gamers can build up a twitch stream channel. E-Commerce stores on Amazon or Shopify are also good opportunities for 18+ students (or children with the help of their parents) to generate some income and learn about the same tools that many large companies use to generate income.
  • Products: Kids with great ideas of what other kids might like can try to turn these ideas into actual products. Once you have products, you can sell them through local businesses, or craft shows or online. Consider books, graphic novels, toys, jewelry, cards, bath products, gifts baskets, crafts, music or photographs. My husband, for example, sold picture frames with his Junior Achievement group when he was in high school. An enterprising young photographer could find there is a profitable online market for their unique framed pictures.

If your child is interested in self-employment, it’s also an ideal opportunity to start teaching them business basics. Interestingly, the fundamentals of any small business are the same as large companies such as Apple, Best Buy or Loblaws. In his book What the CEO Wants You to Know, Ram Charan does a great job of taking the language of big business and simplifying it so that anyone can grasp the core concepts. If your student is like my kids, you may have trouble getting them to sit down and read a business book. Luckily doesn’t take long to read through this concise book and pull out a few gems to help your young entrepreneur:

What The CEO Wants You to Know is available on Amazon
  • Customers: You need customers to have a business. Think about what your customers buy from you and why.
  • Cash generation: Compare the money you earn vs. the money you will need to spend to generate cash. Make sure you don’t spend too much and run out of cash!
  • Return on invested capital: Most kid-friendly businesses do not require much investment. For product-based businesses, the main cost is inventory. Make sure that you sell products quickly (i.e., high inventory velocity) to get the best returns.
  • Growth: Growth is important to any business. Just think about how it motivates you to earn just a bit more each week, instead of a bit less. But be careful that the growth is sustainable. There is no point in working so hard one week that you hurt yourself or need to take the following week off. You have to think about how to scale up your business.
  • Priorities: List out your top three priorities. Focus on these.
  • Numbers: There are a few numbers you can look at understand how your business is doing:
    • Income statement: revenues and costs
    • Balance sheet: assets and liabilities
    • Cash flow statement: flow of money in and out of the business.
  • Execution: Be clear on what you want to get done. Set goals and dates to achieve them. Ask for help if you run into problems. Follow through. If you need someone to help you, make sure you have the right person. Work with them to grow and improve.

Now more than ever, young people have opportunities to be entrepreneurs. If you have younger children, helping them to start their own business is an opportunity to coach them on how all businesses work, both big and small. It’s also a chance for you to reflect on your own job or business and how you can improve results by going back to fundamentals.

What jobs did you have as a student? What were the key lessons that you learned from this experience? What would you like to pass on to your kids or younger colleagues to help them succeed as entrepreneurs?

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