HomeBusiness DigestInculcate basic business skills at infancy

Inculcate basic business skills at infancy

By Tendai R Mbofana

THE bad news: the days of showing your good school results to a prospective employer who then hires you and takes care of you for decades afterwards are over.

NT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Academic skills and career training are important, but for this country to succeed in a ruthless world where unemployment has shortened employees’ shelf-life, there is need for Plan B.

The good news: there is a Plan B – create employers and not employees. We have all heard that cry before, but we are quickly losing our voices because of barking up the wrong tree for so long.

It is all fair and fine to graduate with a degree in business or economics, or alternatively attend seminars and workshops teaching the virtues of becoming successful businesspeople, but that will never yield the desired results.

That is why scores of lectures and business trips later, people are still incarcerated in seemingly meaningless and direction-less business ventures. If the correct approach had been used, we would not be having all these dead-end businesspeople scattered all over the country, most of them failing to even raise enough money for a meal.

Whilst other businesspeople drive flashy cars and own posh houses, in the strictest business sense, they are just as desperate.

We might hide our heads in the sand by blaming this and that (with each camp having its own conspiracy theories) for the economic mess we find our country trapped in. However, the bottom line is that the major problem is the appallingly low levels of financial savvy amongst the cross-section of Zimbabwe’s population.

In other words, successful businesspeople can never be made at some university or workshop. What this country needs is to make business sense everyone’s “sixth sense”. There is need for everyone to grow up with a high business IQ.

Just as there is so much time spent on educating children on being employees, the same emphasis should be placed on creating employers. That means, children should have a head-start in appreciating financial matters at a very tender age.

Parents and teachers must start imparting this financial education as soon as a child has an understanding of money – say at six years. Once a child starts receiving pocket money, business education also starts.

Through a mixture of fun business-oriented games and real-life experiences, children should appreciate that money is not there solely for spending, nor is it financially prudent to simply save. Children should understand that financial genius is not about how much money one earns, but what one does with that money.

In other words, money should grow. Through enjoyable discussions and playing, children can then learn about money, investments, dividends, currencies, world-markets, companies and share prices.

Fun visits to the stock exchange and other places of investment are to be encouraged.

Instead of children spending too much time reading fairy-tale books, other competently and professionally produced children’s material should be made available with stories on world famous businesspeople. Children will thus grow up admiring Bill Gates rather than Pinocchio.

They should be taught to make money work hard for them instead of them working hard for their money. At that point, the meaning and relationship between income expenses, assets and liabilities should be clearly and simply explained to them – in simple terms, assets put money in their pockets and liabilities take it out.

Once children grasp these concepts, children can move on to the practical implications of their newly-found knowledge. The first step is that if children desire something, money should not be given to them on a silver platter for doing so sends the wrong signals – that is, money comes easily.

Rather, they should be encouraged to come up with small income-generating projects; for example, they could do odd jobs at home for payment. The money raised could then be used to purchase the desired object.

This will also delay their gratification, making children understand the importance of proper planning and patience – that is, in business it is more viable to plan and wait than expecting rewards immediately.

The same approach could be used for their education. Without parents abdicating their responsibilities, children could be encouraged to come up with small income-generating projects whose earnings will be put into unit trusts or other profitable investments (for an education fund).

It is of no use making the investments on behalf of the children – rather supply them with knowledge so that they can make their own informed decisions. They should be allowed to make mistakes since people learn from these and encourage creativity.

The “I cannot afford it” syndrome should be eradicated from children’s vocabulary. They should learn to ask, “how can I afford it?” before being assisted to formulate schemes to generate the required funds.

After enriching their business IQ, children should be in a position to make

informed decisions about their goals in life – employees, self-employed, businesspeople or investors. Whatever their decisions, one thing is for sure – this country will never be the same again.

*Tendai R Mbofana is a media and public relations consultant with MediaLink, but writes in his personal capacity. email tendai_mbofana@yahoo.com.

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