Miten Shah, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Belgium, is a serial entrepreneur. His most recent venture, Legopreneur, was inspired by the insightful ideas his children share while he builds LEGO creations with them. Miten encourages other parents to adopt similar guided conversations by sharing your work week with kids and basking in their unintentional―but often wise―business insights. Here's what he shared.
Spending time with my kids―ages 3, 5 and 7―has probably taught me more about entrepreneurship than all of the live keynote addresses I have attended in my entire life.
1. Make it simple enough for a 6-year-old
As I was trying to explain to my daughter what my company does, I had an aha! moment that an elevator pitch should be so simple, direct and concise that a 6-year-old can understand it, remember it, and say it back without any mistakes.
With her as my consultant, we crafted the elevator pitch, "Awesome jewelry, for a month―every month" for my jewelry subscription service. It was more challenging to pinpoint the pitch for my accelerator that funds innovative companies. How do you explain an accelerator to a 6-year-old? We managed, coining the pitch, "We give you money, you sell more."
Many entrepreneurs mix work and family life but try to stop it. I'm different: I want to combine the two. For tasks that require creativity, leadership or motivation, kids make ideal Guinea pigs. If it goes well―great! If not, at least you spent some valuable time with them.
2. Be kind, brave and smart
I believe being happy equates with being kind, brave and smart. To share these values with my kids, we created a "happiness board" at home. On it, we keep track of what we've done that is kind, brave or smart.
Witnessing the strong bonds it created within my family, I implemented the practice at work. On Friday afternoons, our team shares where we as individuals have been kind, by making a positive difference. Smart, by searching for a better way. Brave, by achieving a target that seemed impossible.
3. Build something tangible together
I wanted to do something kind, by giving back to my community; smart, by asking good questions; and brave by getting out of my comfort zone. I started conducting video interviews with players in Belgium's startup world―but with a twist. Every person I interview builds one part of a LEGO Pirate Ship. I wanted to tangibly show each individual within the ecosystem working together. I chose a pirate ship, inspired by Steve Jobs' quote, "Why join the Navy if you can be a pirate?" Before elections, we also interviewed leaders of Belgium's political parties, and yes, they also participated in the LEGO building.
Now I'm interviewing every nation's ambassador to Belgium, and we're building a LEGO Caravan. It's a tangible message that the whole world joins together to make something. Some of the most in-depth, profound thoughts the ambassadors share are while they play LEGO with us.
4. Begin with the end in mind
It's not only ambassadors and adults that share impactful messages when playing LEGO; kids are the same. My kids say they enjoy playing with me as I don't push them to follow the instruction manual. However, we do sort out beforehand what pieces they have and think about what they want to make. After all, in life and business: "It's best when we don't follow the instructions, but we must plan and begin with the end in mind."
5. If you build it, then they will believe it
I decided to structure LEGO play dates with my kids while talking to them about my week at work. I guide the conversation, exploring any analogies that surface.
I found this so fruitful that I wanted to share the joy with other parents, encouraging them to instigate similar conversations with their kids, so I started Legopreneur.
One day I mentioned to my kids about building a giant LEGO bus so we could invite all their friends on a tour. My son told me, "It's only when we build it that people will believe we have it." His words motivated me to stop dreaming, thinking and talking about Legopreneur, and make it happen. Only when people see it will they believe it.
His words gave me the kick I needed to write the articles, post images on LinkedIn, and start our podcast.
6. Everybody is replaceable
The LEGO man we designated to symbolize Mr. Legopreneur had a black shirt and blue trousers―an homage to Steve Jobs' uniform. One day, Mr. Legopreneur was lost. I thought of buying a similar character, but it dawned on me: "Everybody is replaceable." We replaced him with another character, a reminder that everyone within my team and even stakeholders are replaceable.
7. Build bigger, be different, become better
I asked my son why he wanted to make spaceships when he already had planes. His answer was simple: "Dad, we've got to build bigger, be different and become better." This ethos of constant iteration and improvement is one that we always seek in companies we invest in. But we were never able to express something so wise so simply.
Playing LEGO with my kids has taught me about myself and my business. As a father, I get the most satisfaction when I can dedicate playtime with my kids, learn from and teach them about ethics, values and life. My Father's Day wish is for a LEGO set so that I can keep learning about entrepreneurship while spending quality time with my kids.