Entrepreneurs are constantly deriving inspiration from outside sources--whether biomimicry, geometry, language construction, or more. But there's one group that sometimes gets overlooked, and they have got stores of wisdom you can learn from, specifically for entrepreneurship:
The learning curve of building a new human from scratch and re-wiring yourself as a parent and a functioning adult comes with plenty of challenges. All-nighters, toddler sick days, teaching empathy and learning to juggle household demands with workplace deadlines can feel insurmountable. Yet it also feels strangely familiar: like the long days of marathon training, or like the late nights studying to get your MBA on the side of your full-time gig.
I've interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurial parents and there's one consistent theme I keep hearing: how much the jump off the deep dive into parenting readied them for business challenges in a way they didn't first expect. In fact, of the many skills they gain are completely in line with what entrepreneurship asks of us.
Here are five ways becoming a parent changed how I grew my business--for the better.
1. You can pace yourself--and take the long view.
With so much emphasis on fast tech and speed, we forget that most businesses don't last more than seven years. 90 percent of businesses fail within the first seven years, and another dismal percentage make it through the subsequent seven years.
As a parent, you have to take the long view with kids: it's not something you can stop doing a few years from now when you feel like it. You're in it for the long haul. And this view is precisely what you need to stick it out in business for the long game. Will you still want to work on this project in seven years? Is it worth investing your life in? These are key questions to think about when starting a business and developing the staying power to make it through the tough years (and the sleepless nights).
2. You can communicate with two-year-olds.
For every parent that's ever bartered, cajoled, or reasoned with a two-year old, you have the negotiation skills of a ninja. You can get down on the ground, face a tiny toddler terror, and get the important things done.
After reading How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen (ostensibly a parenting book), I realized that it was also a management book in disguise. I now use each of the communication steps they recommend when I'm talking to any adult, and I get agreement a lot more. Want to negotiate with an adult? Learn how to talk to a toddler, and realize that you have a powerful tool in your arsenal.
3. You're not afraid of saying no, and repeating yourself.
Early managers or young employees can sometimes feel timid about saying no, especially if you're new on the job. As an entrepreneur, saying "No," becomes one of the key skills you've got to learn.
As a parent, it only took 40 or so repetitions until I was a boss. Now I can shake my head and delete emails with hyper-speed and I've got a clear sense of the urgency of setting boundaries and saying no. And I'm not afraid to say no loudly, clearly, and on repeat. In many cases, that's what it takes to get people to listen. If I get forget how to do it, I've got my toddler on repeat, always training me.
4. You know how to stay flexible and agile.
On any given day, havoc can break out.
One day my toddler was trying to give me a kiss good bye and instead his teeth smacked mine so hard he chipped a tooth--this was not how I expected to spend my morning. We checked for urgencies, made a quick call to the dentist, shortened a meeting by 20 minutes, and made it all work.
In business, it's the same: when dealing with humans and systems, things break, plans change. Being able to be flexible enough to accommodate hiccups while still getting the most important pieces done is a talent, one that parents have expert training in.
5. You can't remember things.
This may seem backwards, but it's actually good news. So much time is spent worrying and debating and frankly, a lot of business owners worry too much about things that are outside of their control.
It was sleep deprivation that finally helped me implement new, more rigorous systems into my business because I could no longer rely on remembering meetings--if it was not on the calendar, it would not happen.
It was also sleep deprivation that let me stop sweating some of the small stuff. I was too tired at the end of the day to be consumed by worry, and with that came a strangely fresh new attitude, one that demanded presence. My note-taking went up, my calendar skills got better, and I stopped sweating the small stuff because I could not remember it unless it truly mattered.
Parents are tough and fierce. The skills they have lend themselves to some wicked workplace skills, if we know how to translate it. I've interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs, and in hearing their stories, I realized what grit and tenacity they have as business owners.