What Your 8 year old is Learning About Business in Elementary School

by Don BeeryColorful crayons and apple

The world is accelerating. University students getting younger every year (or maybe I’m just getting more… uh, seasoned). And your elementary-aged child is gaining a valuable business education.  Specifically here’s what your 8 year old is learning about business in grade school.

1. Trading sandwiches

This complex transaction occurs daily in cafeterias across this great land. Armed with lunchboxes rather than briefcases young people are conducting high-level negotiations. A bologna/pickle sandwich is traded for peanut butter & banana. Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt is exchanged for an oatmeal cookie. These transactions are not trivial commerce when you’re eight. Yet these little people seem to execute this process with ease. Your friend has something you want. And you propose something to offer in exchange (maybe you didn’t really want it anyway). This is the art of persuasion. This is business.

It’s not about arm-twisting or putting your friend in a half-nelson. Instead you have to deliver a compelling value proposition that prompts your buddy to happily give up what he has.

2. You’re Not the Boss of Me

Ever heard this? Ever said it? Truth is that even if you are the CEO or sole shareholder of your company you have a boss. In fact, you and I have the same boss. It’s our customers.

The next sale depends totally on winning the next customer. It’s true for you. And true for me. I spoke recently with a young technology company salesperson. He was struggling with attracting senior-level customers with his solution. He asked what he could do to convince them his solution was best. Had he actually asked them about their needs and wants, I questioned. Apparently he hadn’t. He didn’t view his customers as being in charge.

3. Color in the Lines

Here are your crayons and coloring book – now, remember to color in the lines, we’re told in school. And this drifts into adult business advice too. But could we agree that the most interesting people and solutions come from outside the lines? Consider Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs. I have a LinkedIn contact who is a well-credentialed leader of two organizations. Her job title with one of them is Chief Rabble Rouser. Do you think she might occasionally color a bit outside the lines.

4. The Buddy System

Who doesn’t like a good field trip! Remember the buddy system? Stay with you partner, students are reminded. There are two lessons here. First, bring somebody along on your journey because two brains and two set of eyes are better than one. You both may view the same experience differently, making it richer.

Second, show someone else how something is done. The benefit is you’ll learn it better by explaining it, and you might be cultivating a future team member or customer.

5. The Unpredictable Will Happen

One day upon arriving home from work, my then elementary-aged daughter was sporting a snazzy, purple cast on her right arm. Recess began normally enough. But somehow, while sliding through one of those large plastic tubes on the jungle gym, she managed to land funny at the bottom. We think. To this day she can’t tell us exactly what she did. Stuff happens. Although, by definition, we can’t predict the unpredictable we should expect that something unexpected will happen. Being prepared is simply good business.

 

Don Beery is President of BlendonGroup Consulting and can be reached at don.beery@blendon-group.com

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