Schools are back – structure has returned. But, as parents and carers tuck into their first hot cup of tea in six weeks, let’s reflect a bit. (Biccie at the ready?)
‘Parent-preneurs’ are all too familiar with the realities of the ‘juggle struggle’ of running both a business and a family. But… does the juggle always have to be between one and the other? Do you have to wear two hats… or is there a third one that fits better? Why separate church and state (or daddy or chips!) if there are beneficial ways you can combine the two.
Before you panic, this isn’t about bringing your children into the office (or giving them a position at your company!). It’s about skills. Skills you’ve developed as a parent / carer, and the skills and characteristics that you can learn from your kids and apply to your business for the better.
Parenting skills you can apply to your business
Parenting skills involve similar principles of care, nurturing and growth – exactly what your business needs to flourish. As we all know – a lot of love goes into it, and your business is no different. Here are some parenting skills that can be adapted for use in managing your small business:
- So much patience. This skill is usually honed during highly stressful times – but there are benefits beyond holding your tongue and counting to three (or 500) in your domestic setting. Being able to exercise patience when managing your team and navigating business challenges can make a massive difference to employee welfare, company culture and your bottom line. Business growth takes time, and not everything will go smoothly – patience will help you handle the tough times and can even lead to better outcomes.
- Effective communication is crucial in both parenting and business. Kids need clear communication to better understand situations and feel secure. By doing this, you’re strengthening your parent-child relationship and their emotional well-being. It also helps children develop crucial communication skills that will serve them throughout their lives. The same skill applies to your business – being able to listen to employees, customers and partners and convey your ideas clearly can lead to better relationships and outcomes for all involved.
- A parent’s ability to pre-empt naps and ‘hanger’ (hungry anger) is like no other. Knowing what your child will need – and when – is a gamechanger for avoiding meltdowns. The same approach applies to parenting older children – you can tell when is (and isn’t) a good time to speak to them about something. It’s almost like a sixth sense! The same empathetic approach can be applied to your business.
- Parenting requires the ability to adapt to different situations and stages of a child’s development. Similarly, businesses must adapt to changing market conditions, technologies and customer preferences to remain competitive. Adaptability is a key skill for ensuring your business remains agile to changing environments.
- Just as children benefit from consistent rules and routines, businesses benefit from consistent policies and practices. This helps establish a sense of stability and reliability for both employees and customers.
- Time management. Parenting often involves juggling multiple responsibilities, and so does running a small business. The school run, after school clubs, health appointments, birthday parties, school emails and events, homework, housework, life admin… Many plates to spin. Effective time management skills can help you prioritise tasks and allocate your time wisely – exactly what your business needs.
- Problem-solving. Parents frequently encounter unexpected challenges, and so do business owners. Being a good problem solver can help you find creative solutions to issues that arise in your business.
- Parents can’t do everything themselves, and neither can small business owners. Learning to delegate tasks to trusted employees or contractors can free up your time to focus on more strategic aspects of your business.
- Setting boundaries. Just as parents need to set boundaries for their children, business owners should establish boundaries for themselves and their employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance and ensure a productive work environment.
- Continuous learning. Parenting involves learning as you go, and the same is true for running a business. Staying open to new ideas and seeking opportunities for personal and professional growth is essential for success. Never stop learning.
- Positive reinforcement. Recognising and rewarding good behaviour and achievements, whether in parenting or business, can motivate and inspire individuals to perform at their best.
- Long-term vision. Like parents who plan for their child’s future, business owners should have a long-term vision and strategic plan for their company. This helps guide decision-making and provides a sense of direction.
- Parenting and entrepreneurship both come with setbacks and challenges. Being resilient and bouncing back from failures or difficult situations is crucial for both roles.
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Business skills you can learn from your kids
Entrepreneurs can learn valuable business skills and characteristics from their kids, often through observation and reflection on the qualities that children naturally possess. Here are some key lessons and characteristics worth exploring more in your work environment:
- Creativity. Children have vivid imaginations and are not constrained by preconceived notions. Entrepreneurs can tap into their creativity by thinking outside the box, exploring new ideas and embracing innovation in their business endeavours.
- Children are often unafraid to take risks and try new things. Entrepreneurs can learn to overcome their fear of failure and be more willing to take calculated risks in their business ventures.
- Children are naturally curious and eager to learn. Entrepreneurs should stay curious, continuously seek knowledge and be open to new opportunities for growth and learning.
- Kids often bounce back quickly from setbacks and disappointments. Entrepreneurs can develop resilience by not dwelling on failures and setbacks but rather using them as learning experiences to improve and move forward. Get back on that bike and keep pedalling.
- Children often find joy in the simplest things. Business owners can learn to appreciate the beauty of simplicity in their business processes and products, which can lead to increased efficiency and customer satisfaction. Sometimes things can become overly complicated when they don’t need to be.
- As many parents will have witnessed in the sweet aisle of a supermarket – children can be remarkably persistent when they’re determined to achieve something. Entrepreneurs can apply this determination and persistence to overcome challenges and obstacles in their business ventures. Don’t take no for an answer – be persistent with your persuasion!
- Children are often brutally honest, which can be a valuable trait in business. Entrepreneurs can benefit from being transparent and honest in their dealings with customers, employees, and partners (but less brutal, of course!).
- As well as parents, kids are also quick to adapt to changing circumstances and environments. Remain flexible and agile to adapt to market changes and evolving customer preferences. Channel your inner chameleon as it were!
- Children often find creative solutions to problems using the resources they have on hand. Entrepreneurs can develop resourcefulness by making the most of the resources available to them and finding innovative solutions to business challenges.
- Unconditional love. Children often love unconditionally and forgive easily. You can apply this by maintaining strong relationships with customers, employees and partners, even in times of difficulty.
- Joy and enthusiasm. Children often approach life with boundless enthusiasm and joy. By infusing your work with passion and enthusiasm, it can be infectious and attract customers and collaborators.
- Time management. While children may not be experts in time management, they often have a keen sense of priorities. Prioritise your tasks and focus on what truly matters in your business.
- Ever ended up giving them a bigger pudding than you originally planned? Kids can be master negotiators when they put their mind to it. Work backwards and consider their words, tone and powers of persuasion… could you take any on board and feed them into your sales process, contract renewals, presentations, funding conversations?
- Think less, do more. While this isn’t the case in all aspects of your business, you can take many a leaf from your kids’ book when it comes to just getting on with things. The Marshmallow Design Challenge couldn’t clarify this point better – an exercise where groups have to build the tallest free-standing structure from some spaghetti sticks, tape and string and place one whole marshmallow on the top. The highest scoring group? Kindergartners. They were the highest scoring, beating groups including engineers in Taiwan, as well as the lowest scoring group of all – business school students-!
The learning? Kids don’t waste time seeking power. They don’t sit around talking about the problem. They get stuck in and see things in their simplest form to problem-solve. Don’t over-think. Iterate as you go – experience it directly.
Incorporating these child-like characteristics and lessons into your entrepreneurial journey can help you become more creative, adaptable, resilient and successful in your ventures. After all, there’s a reason Tom Hanks’s character became so successful in the film, Big. Being young at heart isn’t a characteristic that should be silenced after school – but something that can feed into the professional you become.
Kids push parents outside their comfort zones, especially when you’re feeling under pressure – from meltdowns in Morrisons to applying a plaster to the knee of a howling, wriggling 4-year-old. Even the smallest of scenarios where you have to make small talk at soft play parties can develop your social and communication skills. You might not even realise you have a new skill set ready for your business to tap into! By being more mindful of transferring these parenting skills to your business, you could find that your business benefits quicker than you can say “Igglepiggle”.
By combining your two worlds, you’ve got a Pick n Mix skill set that you can dip into when required. By unlocking the gate between parenting-mode and running a business, you’re giving your whole self access to your business – don’t side-line your full skill set based on your environment. Like a fearless kid with a piñata – throw everything at it. No fear – no regrets.
Jenny Lambert is a freelance writer, interiors blogger and Etsy shop owner with extensive experience working in marketing, digital and publishing roles.