25 Ways Running a Business is like Raising a Child

11 September, 2012


Business and ChildrenAs parents we know it takes time, energy and an emotional roller-coaster ride to raise a happy, balanced child. Charming and hysterically funny one minute, unashamedly self-centered the next, a child can toss you aside like an empty party pack. Growing a business is exactly the same (although hysterically funny is rare). It takes plenty of sweat, fret and tears to raise a happy, purposeful business. And the moment you think you have it under control something shifts, and you’re faced with a new set of challenged boundaries, formidable decisions and impossible consequences.

It requires skill to be a parent and to grow a business. Here are 25 ways these two overlap:

 1.  It’s a serious and long-term commitment

Whether you are raising children or raising a business, the end result takes a steadfastness that is unmoved by strong winds and choppy waters. Passion and a bolted back door will keep you on the road.

 2.  It keeps you up at night

When you start your own business you take on similar responsibilities as if you had a newborn in the house. Day and night you attend to its every need and as a result you’re so sleep deprived you could pass out standing up.

3. If you feed it, it will grow

The more nourishment and nurturing you give your business, the faster it will grow. Feed it with productive time, expert advice and an insatiable thirst for knowledge and watch it thrive. No business can take care of itself.

 4. You have to act, not think

When you see your youngest about to launch off the wash line with a sheet tied to his back, you have to take action. Spend too much time pondering, debating, weighing and evaluating and you’ll assess yourself right out of parenthood, and your business. Sure you can spend time planning, but spend a lot more time doing. The universe rewards action, not thought.

 5. It’s a bit like herding cats

It can be incredibly difficult to feed a moving target without making a royal mess. Find a common goal so that the whole team’s pulling in the same direction.

 6. They thrive on freedom within structure

Boundaries help guide, mould and direct the business so that it can operate creatively within them.  Children love to push – give them boundaries and they won’t need therapy.

 7. You need to be a good speaker

Can you handle yourself in front of a group of colleagues and in one-on-one conversations with your teenager? Your voice is a powerful and important asset. How you speak to your clients, colleagues and children is as important as what you say.

 8. You need to be a good listener

Understanding what someone else is saying is true communication. Listening and asking the right questions are underrated skills in any leader’s toolbox, business or otherwise.

 9. You need to make vital decisions

You have access to a ton of information, usually starting with ‘he said… she said…’ but it’s not enough and at the same time it’s all too much. Make a decision and handle the consequences.

 10. From time to time you screw up

We all make mistakes. How we handle them is what counts. Parenting and business experts advise a healthy dose of self-compassion. Beating yourself up is counter-productive.

 11. It’s not a job

Being a good parent or a successful entrepreneur is not a job. It’s an attitude.

 12. You need to be a great leader

You need to encourage and motivate others to accomplish your goals and the most effective way of doing this is by example. If you want them to eat veggies, you better eat them yourself. There is only ‘do as I do’. Again and again and again.

 13. Multi-tasking is your middle name

You need to be able to juggle multiple ideas, ventures and playdates if you want to be successful at what you do.

 14. Speak in a language they understand

While one child may come alive playing competitive sport, another’s motivator is a blanket and a good book. Using words and phrases your target market understands and resonates with gets the results you need.

 15. Negotiation is non-negotiable

Love it or hate it, to succeed as a leader of a business unit or family, you need these skills.

 16. Customers love stories

Children and customers love to see themselves in a story. Understanding what makes a good one and being able to tell it compellingly goes a long way to closing the deal. The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat’s mat, is a story.

 17. Teaching matters

First you learn, then you earn, and then you return. You need to share your knowledge – through breakfast blogs or bedtime stories.

 18. Create constantly

Children aren’t afraid to throw away bad ideas – they’re full of ideas. Business owners can learn a lot from them.

 19. Obsess about the customer

Like parents over their children, great business owners obsess about their customer – their needs, wants, fears, hopes, dreams and desires. Every conversation is about them, and how they benefit.

 20. Anticipate and handle objections

What’s going to annoy your market and make them push against your offering? By anticipating the ‘yes but’ you can be prepared for negative feedback and adjust your proposal, or at least have a convincing response.

 21. You can’t do it alone

If it takes a village to raise a child then it takes a team to build a business. Rub some of your enthusiasm off on your team and then let go of the fear. Be humble and trust.

 22. They cost you money

Yes running a business and raising children can be expensive. One way to manage spend is to use what money you have where it makes a real difference. Cheap plastic imports, or education? Fancy office, or innovation?

 23. You have to be a little bit crazy

There’s a lunacy when you believe in something so much it’s all you think about, speak about, dream about, write about and spend your money on. When you wake up every day obsessed about that living, breathing being, you know you’re close to crazy.

 24. You need to fill your well

As your children and clients bring their cups to your well, so you must take time off to rejuvenate, refresh and refill the water. You don’t want them sipping on the dirty, muddy stuff.

 25. It takes courage

It can be hard being a business owner and just as hard being a parent, especially if you want to be a good one. You need to have courage to face the rough stuff and be willing to call rubbish ‘rubbish’ when you see it.

Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough to describe the extremes of emotion you’ve taken on with these two life choices. They aren’t easy to navigate, but the rewards are breathtaking.

Image: favimages.com

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.