Ahh, kids. They teach us as much (if not more) than we teach them.
Here are the Top 10 Things I Learned About Running a Business By Being a Mom. Would love to hear your additions too!
[image by Olivia Bucks, for The Oregonian, Mamapreneurs Balance Business and Babies article, 9.3.2008…when my babies were still babies!]
1. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. In the end, what matters is how you all come together for a positive solution. When one person gets hung up on who did what or who is to blame, progress is never possible. This is true in sibling disputes as well as employee rivalries. Let it go. Then move on and figure out how to make things work.
2. Patience. Basically, I had none before I had kids. After having to wait for a child to a) finish eating their dinner, b) get ready for school, or c) write out 20 thank you notes, you can conquer the world of entrepreneurship with your patience, no problem.
3. Plan for the unexpected and go with the flow. Parents are the most flexible, adaptable people I know. Swim meet moved to a new time that requires you to be two places at once? No problem. We’ve got this. I would say that one of the greatest strengths I see among my fellow parent entrepreneurs is their ability to go with the flow and adapt to hiccups in the day without blinking an eye.
4. Give yourself more time than you think. Oh, you think that 30 minutes is enough time to plan for your kids to get their shoes & coats on and out the door for school, eh? Think again. Same holds true for business: I estimate how much time it would normally take on a project, and then double it.
5. Celebrate little victories everyday. Just as there are mini milestones in a child’s life (rolled from front to back! pincer grasp accomplished! first tooth lost!), it’s just as important to celebrate milestones in business. We work so hard every day doing several different jobs, and each victory – no matter how big or small – is a sign that you are progressing, growing, succeeding in business. Celebrate them all, because tomorrow you get to wake up and work your hardest all over again to reach yet another milestone.
6. Lead by example. Just as our kids watch us with their big sweet innocent eyes, making mental notes of every single move we make & word out of our mouths, learning how to behave in the world, so too do our employees/contractors. Employees look to their managers to learn corporate culture: how to speak to one another, how to act, how to innovate, how to deal with conflict.
7. Acknowledge the other person’s emotions. I may not comprehend why my 5 year old is SO very distraught about the fact that her spaghetti isn’t staying on her fork, but in order to get her to calm down & move on, I have to acknowledge that she is feeling frustrated and ask her if I can help, or offer her alternative solutions to try. If I were to just tell her to tough it out, and tell her that’s just the way spaghetti is and I’m not sure why she’s so upset… she would immediately get defensive. By acknowledging our colleagues’, employees’, and customers’ emotions, we help pave the way to open communication and possible solutions.
8. Sometimes it’s gross or boring, but you just need to do it. Changing diapers is nobody’s idea of an awesome time, and those early years spent constantly in the doctor’s office are no picnic, but they are crucial activities that cannot be skipped. The same is true for so much of running a business. Managing receipts and cataloging images of work are not necessarily my favorite things in life, but if I don’t do them or put them off too long, business gets stinky.
9. Let go and trust everyone to do their jobs. Leaving my first born at childcare for the first time was rough. I wanted to hold onto his adorable, vulnerable little hands forever. But at some point, I had to let go, and trust the childcare professionals to do their job. It’s the same in business: you need to communicate your wishes, then let go and allow the people you hire to do what they do best.
10. Just because that’s not how you would do it, doesn’t mean it’s not right. Kids all learn to walk and talk on their own time schedule and in their own ways. It’s amazing, when you think about it, but it all works out in the end. The same is true for most work processes. I’ve learned along the way that there is never, ever just one way to get a job done right — there are always several paths to success. We all have different work styles and ways of thinking and prioritizing; as long as the job gets done in the end, and important details are tended to along the way, that is all that matters.
What have you learned about running a business by being a parent? How has becoming a parent helped you become a better entrepreneur or business person?