If you have been reading my column over the past five years, you know that while I'm serious about business, I'm even more serious about my family. Especially when it comes to raising my three sons. Over the past twenty-five years, I have helped thousands of business owners reach their goals, but I can honestly say that once I became a dad, everything that I knew about life and business changed forever.
I want to share with you the three things that being a dad has taught me about being a better business owner and how parenting has made the difference in not just growing companies faster and making them more profitable, but also building them in a way that I enjoy the process. And of course the main difference is the end goal of creating a company that is less reliant on me and more owner independent, so that I can spend more time with my family.
1. A Lesson in Patience.
One of the first things I learned about being a parent, was that things don't happen on our time schedule. You can talk until you are blue in the face, but you can only give so much input before your kids start to tune you out completely. We have all had that experience with our kids. You end up shouting...turning up the volume....and they just don't hear it. It's not that they are ignoring us exactly, they just have an internal hearing aid that chooses when and where to pay attention. Your employees are very similar. Give them too much information or feedback at one time, and you can watch their eyes glaze over as the message gets lost.
Before kids, I wanted to give so much feedback to my employees. I wanted to give value and have things done a certain way. But my employees would eventually tune me out. Now they did it in a more respectful way than my kids do- they would nod their head and give you all the indications that they were following along, but they weren't. So, I think the big piece here is to learn how to be patient when dealing with your staff and learn to drip not drown.
It's important to note that every interaction and conversation makes an impact, even if you don't see the benefits right away. We were having a workshop in my home town, and one of our former clients was staying with us at our home. My son, Matthew, was sitting at the kitchen table one evening discussing life and business with this family friend. After their conversation, my friend reported back on all the things that Matthew has shared and to my surprise these were things that I had been trying...for several years to teach Matthew. I thought they were important values for him to have and I thought that he was tuning me out. But it turns out that he really was listening, and he took my words to heart. With your own team, you may be surprised what a little patience will do for your company culture and business values.
2. A Change in Perspective.
Nothing changes your perspective faster than a newborn.... or in my case two of them. #twindad As an exhausted new dad, you learn quickly that you can't fight everything. You have to pick your battles. In the early days you choose sleep over just about everything else. As they get older, the battles keep coming.
One evening, my son Adam, just decides for whatever reason, that he is going to eat
his dinner without silverware or hands. He just put his entire head in the bowl and began to eat like a wild animal. He's laughing and having fun, and his brothers think he is the funniest thing ever. So, I have to ask myself, is this a battle I really want to fight? I know he knows how to use silverware and he knows that in other situations that he needs to use proper manners, but right there at that moment I let that one go. My wife just gave me a big smile and a nod of agreement.
Before kids, I fought every battle that came my way. But now I choose the big stuff. Focus on the big stuff.
If an employee does something that is different from how I would handle something I will first ask the question "does it really matter?" If it does, then I say something. If it doesn't, I let it go. There are many other things to focus on with your team.
3. A Dose of Anti-Inflammatory.
Before kids I suffered from a medical condition called control-itis. Most business owners suffer from this debilitating condition and don't even know it. One of the things that drove us to start a business was the desire for control. As a business owner, you hate the feeling of being out of control. We hate the feeling of not knowing everything and it causes tremendous anxiety in our lives. So, you think that by having control over every little aspect of your business, you will feel better.
Enter your little bundle of joy.
Around about the third trimester, you realize that you are no longer in charge. You have no idea when and where you will go into labor, you don't know how the delivery will pan out and you are pretty much in the dark. And then the baby comes, and it never gets any easier. The older they get the more you realize that you have less and less control over what happens in their lives.
As a parent you influence some, and as they get older less and less, but we really don't control much of anything and when you recognize that it... it's both terrifying and also freeing. You have no choice but to calm that control gland. And the same goes for your staff. You have to let your team do it their way. Because if I really try to force my control over my team my business is going to be smaller than it could be otherwise.
In my late twenties and early thirties, I was all about my business. I identified with my business. But after the birth of my children, I realized that while the business mattered (it produced good value in the world and supported my family) it was a secondary thing. I identified a heck of a lot more with being a dad than I ever did with being a business owner - and it fundamentally changed the way I looked at the world.