An Interview with Margot Machol Bisnow, Author of "Raising an Entrepreneur"
Margot Machol Bisnow is a writer, wife, and mom who speaks on raising fearless, creative, entrepreneurial kids who are filled with joy and purpose. She is the author of Raising an Entrepreneur: 10 Rules for Nurturing Risk Takers, Problem Solvers & Change Makers. Planning to Wealth sat down with Margot to talk about her book, and get to the heart of what it takes to raise an entrepreneur.
What was the catalyst for writing this book?
My son Elliott started Summit Series in 2008, bringing together young entrepreneurs. Just out of curiosity, I would ask them how they turned out the way they did: so willing to take on risk and put everything on the line for an idea they believed in. They all told me the same thing: that they had someone who believed in them -- generally a parent, and usually their mom. I was so struck by this; I kept talking about it and my kids started urging me to write a book about it. 'Urging" may be the wrong word; they insisted. They said, "You’ve always told us to believe in ourselves. Now it’s our turn to tell you that we believe in you and we know you can write a book." So how could I say no?
What were some of the surprising findings from your research?
I purposely picked an incredibly diverse group of people to interview: half men and half women, every race, religion, socioeconomic background, every size and type of family, from all over the country. And despite this, they were all basically raised the same.
Are there common themes when it comes the families you studied and raising entrepreneurs?
There were definitely common themes.The 10 rules that I came up with are based on these common themes the families all followed when raising their kids.
Can you speak about the ideal family dynamics that nurture entrepreneurship?
An ideal family is not based on whether you have two parents, whether your parents are married, how much money they have, how educated they are, how many siblings there are, or how much time they spend with their kids. It doesn't matter where the kids are in the birth order or anything else most people assume. The only thing that matters is the parents' attitude. Every parent in this book believed in their child and supported their child, and the kids always knew that their family was behind them.
What are some of the parenting myths when it comes to raising entrepreneurs and changemakers?
Before I started interviewing people for the book, I wrote down what I thought the 10 rules would be, and it turned out that none of them -- such as eating dinner together every night -- were anybody else’s rules, they were just mine. I think the major myth is that there is a precise path that must be followed. In fact, that’s not true: the important thing is to follow where your child wants to go, not mandate that direction. The direction has to come from the bottom up, not the top down. I had a tennis player and a songwriter when my kids were in high school. We don't play tennis and we don't write music. Those were their passions, not mine.
What's the connection between the type of education kids receive, how important grades are, and entrepreneurship success?
I wrote a chapter in the book on education. Again it’s not what people think: there isn’t one path. You don’t have to drop out and you don’t have to be a star. You don't have to go to a big public school or a small private school. The important thing is for your child to be in a situation where they can thrive and where their passion is being supported. Of the entrepreneurs I interviewed, about a third of the kids were academic stars and breezed through ivies. Another third graduated but weren’t happy, and another third didn’t graduate from college, or in some cases, didn’t even go. Many future entrepreneurs were unhappy in school because they often have habits that schools don't value: they question how things should be done; they challenge authority; they lose focus when the assignment doesn't interest them. It doesn't mean they won't be successful.
Can you talk about parents that are too involved in their children's lives?
I think it’s pretty well established that it’s important for parents to let their kids make their own decisions and figure things out on their own. But given that, there was a huge range of involvement by the parents. None of them did their kids' homework. But many were able to spend more time with their kids than others. In the end, as long as the kids were encouraged to make their own decisions and given a lot of independence to follow what mattered to them, they turned out OK.
You talk about the importance of developing grit and hard work in raising children, what advice would you give to parents that have had successful careers and have accumulated wealth and are worried about how their kids will avoid complacency, develop a strong work ethic and deal with adversity?
Some of the parents I interviewed that had the most money were the ones who always insisted that their kids have jobs and work to get what they wanted. Some of the parents who had no adversity in their lives talked about the adversity that their own parents had. The important thing, regardless of family income or situation, is to raise kids who have to make their own decisions, who are supported when they do so, who develop grit, who learn that they need to contribute to the world and not take from it, and who learn to bounce back from inevitable setbacks.
Anything else you would like to add for parents nurturing entrepreneurship in their kids?
Kids thrive if they learn to believe in themselves; to pursue their passions; to find new ways to solve problems; to see opportunity where others see the status quo; to be willing to take on challenges without proper credentials; to learn to work with single-minded determination to achieve a goal; to take on risk if something is worth trying; to learn that building something wonderful is its own reward, regardless of how much money is involved; to view failure as feedback, and setbacks as learning experiences; and to dream big dreams. Encouraging a child to follow a passion--and letting them know that you believe in them and believe they can do anything they set their mind to--will help them grow into an entrepreneurial, creative, fearless, thriving adult.
David Flores Wilson, CFP®, CFA, CDFA®, CCFC is a New York City-based CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Practitioner & Wealth Advisor at Watts Capital. He can be reached at (917) 843-4366 and firstname.lastname@example.org.