Better than any classroom
BY KERRY ANDERSON
GROWING up in a small business family is a valuable learning experience that arguably puts young people ahead in life compared to those not connected to business. Children with parents in business learn how to handle money and develop a range of valuable skills not taught in any school classroom. Most of all, they learn how to be good citizens.
Here are five valuable lessons I learnt along the way.
#1 You get out what you put in
As children in a small business, my siblings and I understood the concept of billable hours and why in summer, at the peak time of his earth moving business, we rarely sighted our father. He was gone before daybreak and home long after dark. Paperwork was done after dinner. Quite simply, if he didn’t go to work there would be no revenue generated. Later, when the business became more established, the hours were less punishing but he still had to organise work for employees so they could be productive. This is the same for every small business. If the shop isn’t opened, the clients don’t receive a service, or if the crop isn’t sown, there is no return.
#2 You can’t spend more than you earn
Listening to adult conversations around them children instinctively develop an understanding of cash flows and budgets. There is an awareness of how the food on the table and the luxuries in life are connected with how well the business is performing. A good week in the shop, payment by a major client, or a wool cheque in the mail will be celebrated with smiles all round, but always with the understanding that most of that profit will go to paying the suppliers and investing back into the business.
#3 Honour your debts
Children learn to understand the ramifications of customers who, with no conscience whatsoever, continually avoid paying their account. They also observe how hard their parents work to ensure that their own suppliers are paid promptly, or at least have the courtesy to make a phone call to explain when circumstances are beyond their control.
#4 Support your local community
Goodwill is an incredibly important for any business. Businesses understand the importance of supporting each other as a customer, as well as sponsoring local sporting clubs and charities. While we couldn't support everything, I was always incredibly proud that our family business did their bit for our community and have done the same in my business.
In the early days of the business our mother was very hands-on so we also took on a number of chores. Answering the phone politely and taking messages was an accepted way of life as was fuelling the work vehicles each evening. We learned to safely handle equipment and vehicles at an early age. Getting our driver’s licence was accomplished with ease compared to our city counterparts who had never sat behind a wheel.
Despite the tough times we always thought we were lucky, and we were. Growing up in a small business led to a confidence in our own abilities. We also learnt to be good citizens.
KERRY ANDERSON: A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia. She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace opportunities.