As I've mentioned in some of my previous articles, I grew up on a small farm. Watching my parents throw 50-lb hay bales into the barn loft or pick garden vegetables by hand was my normal, as was seeing classmates start school after already having done a few hours of chores.
Kate Hiscox, CEO of Venzee, understands farm life is no easy cakewalk, too. She grew up on a farm along with her four siblings. But she doesn't see the difficulties she experienced as negative. In fact, her view is just the opposite. She credits her farm life with setting her on the path to business leadership.
"Farming is one of the most challenging businesses there is," she explains, "because you're having to deal with a lot of variables with a low level of predictability, including weather and animal health. Our parents, by the very nature of their business, became master problem solvers. Farming, combined with supporting the needs of your family, means you're rolling up your sleeves from dawn to dusk. [...] This instilled a tremendous work ethic and problem solving ability [...], as well as an automatic dismissal of the word 'can't'."
A family affair
As much as Hiscox paid attention to these lessons, her siblings, did, too. Subsequently, she's not the only person in her family who can say they've made it as an entrepreneur. One brother, like Hiscox, is in tech. A sister and two more brothers established themselves in property development, agricultural/commercial building and cleaning services.
And as if that's not impressive enough, Hiscox's mom got in on the entrepreneurship bandwagon, too. She was able to start and expand a childcare business and run it for years, so now, the kids all turn to mom for advice and, occasionally, even a little financial backing. And Hiscox asserts her mom is great at balancing egos and cheering from the sidelines in equal parts.
Hiscox claims that it's not unusual for her family members to share what they know with each other. Her brothers have even collaborated. Their mom's support undoubtedly plays some role in that, but teamwork is something you learn on a farm, too. Don't want to work together? The crop doesn't come in or animals die. Can't see past your differences? You don't eat and bills don't get paid. Working together isn't just professional. It's survival.
Practice makes the CEO
Being somewhat of an insider with my background, for me, the big takeaway from Hiscox and her family isn't that great entrepreneurs can come from humble backgrounds or venture into new areas of expertise. It's that, when you live an idea or value--for example, discipline--for a long time, those ideas and values become part of who you are. They translate into all the behaviors you'll exhibit in just about any environment, coloring your perspective. In other words, the traits of outstanding entrepreneurship and lifestyle are connected. If you want to lead naturally, if you want to demonstrate all the traits the best executives demonstrate, live in a way that helps you continuously practice.