14 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Mothers
“A mother’s love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking.” Helen Rice
As a son I always appreciated how tough the mother’s job is. Then I became a father, witnessed my wife transform into a mother. That made me appreciate it more. Then I spent some time at home taking care of my son. I realized how little I knew. Being a mother really is the toughest job in the world.
I’m convinced that any and every mother can be a great entrepreneur provided she learns a few key business skills.
Starting and growing a company is very similar to having a baby. If you are an entrepreneur or want to start your business, you can learn a lot from mothers.
Here are 14 tips:
1- Your Baby is #1: You as a business person must have the same fanatical dedication to your company that a mother has to her baby. This means, you must fully commit to ensure it survives and thrives. You have to invest your time and money, say no to other things, and lose sleep nursing it through growing pains. It also means you have to learn new skills to be a better caretaker.
“Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat, Pray, Love.
2-Protect With Your Life: a mother will do anything and everything for her baby. As an entrepreneur, you have to fight for and protect your baby like the way a mother protects her baby from predators. You have to believe and persist when things are tough. You will have to fend off danger coming from competitors, tough customers, and many doubters… with everything you have.
3- Be Patient: babies are the world’s best patience testers. Starting and running a company comes with a fair dose of problems and growing pains that will test and stretch you beyond your comfort zone. Stay focused and work through these problems (i.e. lean in). That’s what will make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful company.
4- Get Your Hands Dirty: newborn babies basically eat, sleep, and poop (a lot!). Mothers (and fathers) have to change a lot of diapers in the process. As a business owner, you have to roll up your sleeves and do anything and everything for the business. This is especially the case in the early days when you need to wear multiple hats. As the company grows, it’s a good idea to go back to the front lines and stay in touch with customers. You can do that by sitting in on different positions in your company as it grows (customer support, sales, etc). You can also do that by having customer visits to stay close to customers.
5- Take Pride: You should have the same pride towards your business as the pure pride and love mothers have towards their babies. Despite all the hardship, seeing your baby grow into a healthy, respected, and accomplished part of the world is what you work for. If you don’t have that pride and passion towards your work, you should rethink your choice and switch to something you will love.
6- Have Discipline: Mothers who raise their children with values and boundaries tend to have children who grow up to be more adjusted and accomplished in life. Set boundaries, values, and priorities for your company to live by. These will be based on your beliefs and values and will shape the personality of your company. This is necessary to ensure you stay focused, which is something a company needs to have in the early days.
7- Have a System: Children need structure to their day. Having a system in place eliminates wasted time and energy trying to figure out what’s wrong when they cry (e.g. knowing that the child will eat every four hours makes it easier for you to cross hunger out as a reason). When running a company, have a system for recurring things so you can spend your energy and time on handling unexpected issues and creating new possibilities.
8- Give That Medicine: When something goes wrong, resolve it quickly. When my son caught colds during the first year, we had to clear out his nose so he can breathe (babies can’t blow their noses). He hates and fights it with everything he has, but we have to do it for his own good. As an entrepreneur, you have to resolve issues and hold people accountable when things don’t go well. You might have to cut a loser product or fire an unprofitable customer. Its unpleasant to do, but the consequences of not doing anything are a lot worse.
9- Have an Experienced Mentor: When my wife and I had our first child, it was a terrifying experience to be responsible for such a fragile human being. We didn’t know what is normal and what we should be worried about. Having an experienced mentor helps because the person (my wife’s mother) guides you through what to pay attention to and what not to worry about. Good mentors also help you improve and avoid problems before they happen. You can also have a mastermind group that includes multiple people who share their experience and opinions. Now, having said that…
10- Take Advice Selectively: my wife and I learned that there are a million and one opinions on how to best raise a child. Obviously experience is a great teacher, but what worked for one child (or company) will not necessarily work for yours. Listen to advice, but be selective as to which to take and which to let go. Your best bet is to take advice only form those who know what they are talking about, have your best interest at heart, and have no vested interest. Once you get the facts and opinions, decide what works best for you.
11- Get Help With Other Stuff: My wife has a policy that she and I will handle everything related to taking care of our son. We get help with other stuff (e.g. house cleaning) so we can make better use of our time. As an entrepreneur, identify and focus on the essential things for the business to succeed that you can do best. Get help on other things. Your time is your most precious asset.
12- Choose Your Partner Wisely: A mother and an entrepreneur can do it alone, but having a good partner that will share the load and compliment your abilities will help you grow a healthy strong baby. Of course, having a bad partner is worse that not having one, so pick your partner carefully.
13- Know When To Let Go: This is a particularly sensitive issue for mothers and entrepreneurs. Your baby will outgrow the need for your caregiving eventually. As an entrepreneur, this means you have done your job for the company to survive and thrive past the early stages. It also means it needs to be run differently and decisions need to be done differently. If you hold on and keep running the company as you did in the early years, you will be holding it back from growing to reach its true potential. Start early to set systems to let key people take decisions without going through you. Build a succession plan and groom someone to take over when it is time for you to step back and watch your baby grow into an adult.
14- Enjoy The Ride: This is easy to forget because you get caught up in the day-to-day work. We took my 1.5 year old son to the beach for the first time yesterday. He loved it! My wife and I loved watching him experience walking and holding sand. We loved watching him giggle as the waves gently hits him. Such moments make all the troubles of raising a child disappear and are replaced by joy.Take the time to enjoy the process and savor the moments. Inject some fun into your work. It doesn’t have to be all serious.
Now, the first thing you should do is send your mother some love. Then get cracking on your business.