By LouAnn Schulfer, NCWWDB Board Member
When our sons were very young, my husband Gene and I set a goal to have some sort of part-time business for them to run during their teenage years. We wanted Jacob and Zachary to develop a business acumen early in life. We wanted them to grow up with the commitment and responsibility it takes to run a successful business, to feel the exhilaration of success, the disappointment of temporary setbacks and to learn how to think and work their way out of them, to experience what it feels like to earn a dollar and so much more. Gene and I bought our first small business when we were 24; neither of us had a family history of business ownership nor did we ask for help financially or otherwise. We quickly learned that there was another whole world of experience that came with ownership. Good, bad or indifferent, what was striking was that we were the ones in control with the final responsibility for our own success. What I always wanted to impart upon our sons was, someday, if there is not someone out there to give you a job, you can make your own! Take it up a level and you can even own a business that can create jobs for other people.
When we set this goal, we had no idea how we would fulfill it. We knew it could not interfere with school or wholly compete with extracurricular activities that are important to them, yet be demanding enough necessitate commitment. Many ideas ran through our heads…. Mowing lawns, making and selling items through e-bay, an ice cream stand, making and selling firewood (like we did when I was a girl)…. We didn’t have the details but we held the goal.
Then, when Jacob and Zachary were just 7 and 9 years old, a golf driving range that was just one mile from our house had closed with plans to turn back into a hay field. We saw this as a great possibility and called the owners. It was a bit of a complicated purchase but we managed. We spent and borrowed a great deal of money for the land and equipment. Now the challenge was keeping a 7 and 9 year old interested in business and motivated to do the work. The first and obvious things we did were little treats at the range that we did not have at home, like ice cream bars or their favorite frozen pizzas for break times. The bigger picture though, came with teaching them to set goals. We worked with them to create “Reality Boards”, things they wanted to buy with their money to become their “reality”. We had them print out pictures and paste them onto their reality board: things like a dirt bike, a Nintendo DS, so that every day they were visually reminded of what they were working toward. We set an hourly wage and established an 80/20 rule; 80% of what they earned went into their ROTH IRAs and college accounts and 20% of their wage could be used for their personal goals on their reality board. They became fully responsible for the purchases, determining how much money it would take to buy the dirt bike for example, and how many hours they would have to work to make enough money to get to their “reality”. Jacob and Zac became experts at multiplying any number by 20%! We consistently showered them with praise for jobs well done. Imagine parents at an intense sporting event that their child is competing in…. our attitudes and affirmations were and still are all of that and then some for business!
The 2015 season will be Jacob and Zachary’s eighth year of operating Rolling Hills Driving Range, LLC. Their responsibilities have increased with their maturity. Their duties include the obvious facility management like picking the golf balls, mowing 13 acres of grass, keeping the inside of the clubhouse neat and orderly, greeting and interacting with customers and filling buckets with balls. Their responsibilities also include keeping sales ledgers, counting money and measuring it against the number of buckets sold, and mechanically fixing mowers, the golf cart and ball picker when there are equipment breakdowns. Jacob and Zac promote Rolling Hills Driving Range through a facebook page that Jacob manages. We have regular business development meetings where they brainstorm ways to improve operations and profitability. Entrepreneurialism and business ownership have become a way of life for Jacob and Zachary. We understand the compounding effects of mindset, critical thinking skills, attitude and work ethic. Looking back, it has been a lot of hard work and perseverance from all four of us. Looking forward, I couldn’t be more excited for their futures.