MARKETING

Business Lessons From My 10-Month-Old

When my daughter was born, I scrambled to learn parenting skills. Now that we're all sleeping through the night, I realize how much those skills help me as a leader.
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When I became a new dad almost a year ago, I had to learn a whole new set of skills. Now that my 10-month old daughter is sleeping through the night, however, I realize my new parenting skills are helping me to run my business better.

Here are a few lessons that I've learned from her.

Always Be Curious

My daughter has just started to crawl. Every object is a source of fascination. She spends an hour exploring an empty Gladware tub or a new wooden block. How does it feel? What does it taste like? What does it do when it moves? Again, what does it taste like?

Obsessive curiosity is good for infants--and good for companies, too. Often, we lose sight of how much we can gain if we train ourselves to ask simple questions and look more curiously at everything around us.

 Rather than just going to a website, think about why exactly you go there--and how you can apply those feelings to your own company's site. Instead of grumbling at a long bus line, watch how people form the line and think how you could use that information to make your store's shopping lines better.

Celebrate the Small Things

Like most dads, I'm sure, I hope my little girl grows up to win a few Nobel prizes, become the president, and win a few Olympic gold medals. But I'm impatient. I want her to know everything right now, and am frustrated that she does not already know her ABCs or an ordered list of Fortune 500 companies.

And yet, she progresses--one small step at a time, each one a building block to a larger goal. A few weeks ago she learned how to clap her hands on command. Not only is it adorable but it shows that she is honing her hand-eye coordination, listening and comprehending what we say (or sing), and recognizing our actions well enough to mimic them. It seems like such a small thing--but these were impressive developmental milestones worth celebrating.

The same is true in any company. With the rare lucky exception, you aren't going to become a billion-dollar sensation overnight. You need to build your business step by step, honing your company's skills and learning along the way. Most importantly, you need to make sure to celebrate those small victories, even if they only get you slightly further along.

Celebrating the small steps helps you understand that you are making progress towards that big goal.

Get Back Up Again

My daughter is still getting her coordination together. (That's probably something I passed on to her.). She'll be sitting or pulling herself up and then suddenly, "THUMP"--she falls backward, her head hitting the rug. As a first-time parent, I am terrified. Is she OK? Do we need to go to the hospital? While I'm panicking, I watch her look around surprised, let out a quick cry, and then get back up as if nothing happened.

There's a lot to learn from that. Whether you are starting your first new company, heading a new initiative, or just taking a chance in your own career, you are going to have ups and downs. You will get knocked down and it will sting--so much so that you may not want to get back up.

But persistence in the face of adversity is critical, especially when you have a day where it seems as if everything is going against you. If a 10-month-old can get back up after a fall, why can't you?

Don't Hold Grudges

Like most 10-month-olds, my daughter gets upset. And when she's really angry (like when we try to feed her green vegetables), she lets us know. She puts on such facial expressions, screams and waterworks that it is very clear that:

  • She is going to win an Oscar one day.
  • We must be absolutely terrible parents.
  • She'll always remember that we were the ones who tried to feed her the disgusting asparagus.

And yet ... then she quickly forgets. Within a few hours, or sometimes even a few minutes, she's back to her silly, giggly self, with a big broad smile as soon as she sees us. All is forgotten.

And our reaction is amazing as well. All our tension and stress subside as soon as we see her smiling, two-toothed face. Instead of dread, we now feel complete relief.

If getting rid of grudges can have such a positive effect, shouldn't we do this in our work and personal lives, too? Stressful situations happen all the time, and there are bound to be disagreements and heated arguments. It's easy to let the grudge continue after the meeting ends, but it is much better to act like a 10-month-old and let it pass.

As new parents, you think you'll be the ones who teach your kids everything. Boy, did I get it that wrong.  The things I have learned from my little one in just nine months will help shape my business and personal values for a lifetime.  Thank you, my little girl.

Last updated: Jun 14, 2012

CHARLIE GRAHAM | Columnist | Founder & CEO, Shop It To Me

Charlie Graham is founder and CEO of Shop It To Me, a free personal assistant for sales of clothing, shoes, and accessories, with more than four million members and close to 200 retail partners.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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