There are few things in life that require the time, effort, and utter devotion it takes to raise a child. As a parent of three hilarious, infuriating, lovely kids, I’ve run the gamut of parenting: I’ve cried from joy and from frustration, watched my babies sleep for over an hour at a time, and even jumped in front of a moving car to snatch up a wandering little one.
The funny thing is, though, that one of those parts of life that compares to being a parent is founding, developing, and running my own business. Don’t take me for some cold-hearted robot who treats their kids like an ROI – but there are certainly distinct similarities. Here are a few:
It Takes Time and Nurturing
Like we all learned from watching younger siblings grow or biology class, people take an extremely long time to grow up and become self-sufficient. Think about it: a baby horse can walk practically right after birth, but a human baby takes around 9 to 12 months. As a parent, you must devote a lot of time and patience to raising a child until it can survive on its own.
For some reason, even though most companies take at least 4 years to become successful, many would-be entrepreneurs expect an organization to take off overnight. However, like raising a kid, setting up a self-sustaining business takes time and nurturing. If you rush things, you risk skipping over important steps that could have led you to great innovations and success.
In many companies, leaders don’t provide the support and time needed in important parts of the business, like prototyping or testing products and services. Instead, they get pushed into review and production prematurely, which doesn’t let them come into their own in order to be sustainable in the long term. Just like raising a kid, you need to put the time into an organization to make sure it’s still able to be successful in the future.
Accountability is Key
There are two people you need to hold accountable when raising a child: your kid and yourself. Similarly, you must keep yourself and those working around you accountable when trying to build a successful company.
Good parents make sure that their kids are well-disciplined. Instead of buying them every toy or piece of candy that catches their eye, you need to make sure they have the self-control to make healthy decisions later by demonstrating that control now. You also need to hold them accountable for their actions: if I let my kid stay out all night or slack off in school without repercussions, she isn’t going to grow into a healthy adult with the necessary sense of responsibility to be successful.
With 91% of people ranking accountability as one of the top needs at their organization, there’s a great necessity in the business world for strong leaders who hold themselves and their teams accountable – much like parenting. By demonstrating self-control through being meticulous about your decision making, as well as holding team members accountable for deadlines and job requirements, you will soon be running a well-oiled machine of a business.
You Need to Be Flexible
Only about 20% of new businesses make it past their first year of operation – and the ones who do make it are extremely flexible. This isn’t much different from raising a kid, when a last-minute babysitter emergency can derail date night or a diaper mishap can make a fun outing into a scream-fest in seconds. You need to be flexible and adaptable in order to survive the bumps in the road.
For instance, when my first child was entering his preteens, I thought I had parenting down. But then he hit a growth spurt, started sprouting a mustache, and had a completely new perspective on his life and his parents. I had to navigate slammed doors, his new group of friends that I didn’t really approve of, and some difficult conversations that came with his age. In other words, I had to adapt and be flexible, learning on the fly to help my son grow into a successful, stable teenager.
Similarly, organizations undergo a lot of peaks and valleys. The ever-changing landscape of the business world means that in order to survive, you must navigate rapid evolution at any time. Clients, employees, and board members may all throw you curveballs at any given point in the development of your company, which means that you must always be researching the latest solutions and innovations in your industry to manage difficult situations and keep up with the times.
So you see, parenting and developing a business really aren’t all that different. How could you apply aspects of parenting to your own company’s development?