These past weeks, we’ve looked at why running your own business gives you the flexibility and freedom you want to plan around young children, how to set it up in the right way, how to prepare for maternity leave, and, last week, how to manage your business once you’re ready to get back to work. To wrap it all up, I want to consider the advantages that having a baby will give you when it comes to running your business.
Here are 5 things you’ll learn when you have a baby and that will make you more effective in your business.
By the time you’re in your thirties or so, you’re most likely well established in your career, respected by your peers, and operating within a comfortable space where you know what you’re doing and you’re not taking too many risks. The problem with that is that you’re not really learning anything, as you stick with what’s familiar, and you’re missing out on all sorts of learning and growth opportunities. Stepping into your new role as a parent, you’ll suddenly be thrust into completely unfamiliar territory and you’ll be learning new things every day.
In business, you need to be getting out of that familiar comfort zone on a daily basis as well, to keep learning new things and developing both yourself and your business. Continuously trying new things and challenging yourself will help you stay relevant in a fast-moving industry and will make sure that you stay ahead of your competition rather than resting on your laurels and sticking with what you know. Yes, it can be scary to get out of that comfort zone – but it will also be exciting, and rewarding.
A lot of you will self-identify as a perfectionist, an alpha, an achiever type: constantly pushing yourself, putting pressure on yourself to do everything just right, and getting frustrated when you don’t do as well as you had expected. Well, get ready to let go of all of that as you embrace parenthood and discover that perfection is an impossible (and even undesirable) goal. Trying to be the perfect parent, especially when you’re trying to be the perfect business owner at the same time, can only lead to stress, burnout and misery.
This is not about lowering your standards and giving up all your ambitions – as a parent or as an entrepreneur – but recognising what really matters, focusing on doing your best when it comes to those things that truly will make a difference, and being satisfied when something is ‘good enough’. In your business, the incremental gain that your attempt at perfectionism will bring is not going to have much of a positive impact on your business – but will likely have more of a negative impact on your wellbeing, and your sanity! So do what needs to be done, and do it well… and then move on to the next priority.
Speaking of focusing on what really matters: as a perfectionist, and as a professional operating in modern society, you almost certainly have an endless list of ‘to-dos’ and, no matter how many tasks you tick off, there’ll always be more to be done. Once you’re juggling your business with a young family, you’ll have even less time in which to complete your mammoth list and, more to the point, it won’t seem nearly as important any more as you have other more important things (or, rather, people) in your life. When saying “yes” to something that’s actually quite trivial means saying “no” to time with your baby and partner, you become very good at making those choices upfront.
When it comes to your business, you’ll need to get super clear on what is actually going to make a difference – and then let go of the rest. As we discussed last week, this will mean saying “no” to clients, prospects and personal requests that don’t match your priorities. Identifying the two or three things that will create real movement in your business, and being disciplined with focusing your limited time and energy on those things, will bring you better results as you learn to live by that cliché, “working smarter, not harder”.
In a corporate job, you have a boss, a team, a whole company to refer to when making an important decision. There are senior directors who have decades of experience and well-established processes and systems that will tell you exactly what to do next. As a parent, while there are books to read and experts to consult, no one can tell you exactly what to do: there is no roadmap, and it’s down to your understanding of your child and your own preferences as to how you decide to move forwards.
In business, too, while there are experts and coaches you can consult and work with, ultimately, it’s your business and you need to make the final call. That means trusting your intuition about what your priorities should be and what are the right action steps that will get you there. This is a skill that will be honed with time and experience, but having had to trust yourself when it comes to your baby’s survival and wellbeing will definitely stand you in good stead for your business decisions as well.
I’m always talking about the “freedom and flexibility” that we all desire in our work and personal life – well, this is your chance to really embody that flexibility! A baby is never going to stick to the schedule you set, there will always be ups and downs, and you have to expect the unexpected. If you try to control every aspect of your life and your baby’s, you’ll end up miserable and frustrated. Instead, you’ll need to learn to go with the flow, taking each day as it comes and being open to shifting your plans.
Likewise, in business, however much you plan you can’t control what the market, or your potential clients, will actually do. Having a vision, putting in place a strategy and having the discipline to take consistent action will all set you up for success – but the reality is that you’ll need to adapt to what you see actually happening in order to stay relevant and effective.
So, there you have it, things that you’ll learn as a parent that you can apply to your business. But there are many more, of course – comment below with the lessons you’ve learned as a parent that you think will make you a better entrepreneur!
If you’re striving for a better balance between work and family and want to make sure you’re focusing on the right things in your business to really get the results you’re after, then get in touch to book a free consultation with me. We’ll look at where you are today in your business and your family situation, where you can make some shifts, and how I can support you in creating better business results AND more time for your family.