Temper tantrums. Capricious decision-making. Selfish behavior. Toddlers, or little people from ages 2 - 4, are often painted as evil incarnate (I can say that. I have one.). Their shifting, ever-changing priorities represent the uncomfortable area between complete dependence (baby) and strong independence (child). Sound familiar? As entrepreneurs, we often float at this stage: Dependence on one particular client or service, until our business efforts are rewarded with a bigger base, and yet we may pivot our company again to get different clients and, in the short term, be more dependent on fewer customers. I have gone and continue to go through my own process, from journalist to author to public speaker and entrepreneur.
Like a toddler, our business is a continual cycle of growth, reassessment and discovery. At least it should be.
Next time you're around a toddler, observe these 3 brilliant business traits:
Remember Your Purpose. Always: She may forget how to put on a shirt, how to say someone's name or even where she lives, but she will absolutely remember that toy she was promised at the store three weeks ago - and remind you that she remembers, too. Toddlers know their exact priorities at any given moment.
Have you ever sat in a meeting, glassy-eyed, asking other disillusioned colleagues how the organization got to a certain point? I have, and inevitably it was some decision we made along the way that took us away from our priorities. As we evolve our businesses, it is crucial we have a North Star to work towards. Changing priorities should be a conscious decision based on both desire and intention.
Say No Now. Say No Often: The No's come fast and furious, sometimes melodically, as if she is trying to catch a tune. Psychologically, saying No is a toddler asserting power: After leaving babyhood, she finally realizes that she doesn't have to do everything she is told. She is establishing boundaries. She is understanding control.
How often do you take on a client or adopt a practice that you're not sure you have the desire or the capacity to handle? Often, we say we need to say Yes to more than we'd like to because we don't know when the next opportunity is coming. The problem with this mentality is that if we say Yes to the bad to mediocre opportunities, we won't have the capacity to actually say Yes to the great opportunities around the corner. Toddlers instinctively know that there will be better chances to get closer to their purpose, especially if they reject the bad ideas. The result? Toddlers almost always get their way.
Keep Asking "Why?": Why is the second favorite word for toddlers, as in why does nighttime come, why do I have to wear clothes and why do you have hair in your ears. It's not just a matter of being infinitely curious, but also understanding that every single thing is new. They look at things with fresh eyes because they truly don't know the truth. The main difference between us and toddlers is that we already believe we know the truth.
What's one of the best ways to grow your business? Keep asking why: Why you hold certain practices sacred, why you serve these particular customers and why you are in the business in the first place. The point isn't to do a overhaul of your company, but to remember your company's purpose. Those purposes can evolve because of personal desire, customer needs or economic changes. Constantly asking Why will keep you aware of how your business needs to evolve.