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6 Things Parents Can Teach Aspiring Entrepreneurs

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So often we’re asked to think of a company as a family, but there’s a reason the metaphor rings true: Like families, companies run best when they’re a supportive and cohesive unit. As the household CEOs, parents work hard to keep things running smoothly. They are teachers, leaders, and master problem-solvers all at once: developing talent, driving value, and above all else, keeping the peace.

Parents everywhere could teach aspiring entrepreneurs a thing or two about running a company. Here are 6 lessons business leaders could swipe directly from the parenting playbook.

  1. Time management is everything.
    Schedules: Keeping parents sane since the dawn of time. No one understands the importance of time management and ruthless prioritization like a parent. “Meal time, play time, reading time, bed time — having a consistent rhythm with built-in margins is what keeps us all on track and in sync with each other,” says Rob Forman, COO and Co-Founder of SalesLoft. “With five children, my wife and I are lost if we get too far off schedule.”

    Time management is just as vital in the business world. Efficiency allows you to accomplish more in a shorter period of time, which leads to more free time — which lets you sell more, market better, or what have you. Everyone has the same number of hours in a day; those who can get more out of them are destined for greatness. Need help? Try running your business with time-saving tools like Salesforce Essentials for CRM, Quip for collaboration, and Pardot for marketing automation.

  2. Rewards work.
    Rewards are big in the wide world of parenting. Why? Because it’s important to recognize positive behaviors. “We celebrate lots of milestones,” says Laurie McCabe, Partner at SMB Group, “from small wins like an uninterrupted night’s sleep to bigger accomplishments like improving a whole grade on a spelling test. Sometimes they get a high-five or a shout-out at dinner; other times they get an ice cream cone.”

    Businesses, on the other hand, are known for having year-end bonuses, unpredictable lump sums delivered in a nebulous timeframe. There’s not much transparency into how they’re awarded and no incentive to stay at the company afterward. Would a parent reward a child after 6 months of good behavior? Heck, no! Rewards work better when they’re given right away. They don’t have to be grand gestures; it’s great to highlight small wins. Take your team to lunch, send them gift cards, or give them a shout-out or an extra vacation day.

  3. Values are paramount.
    Marie Rosecrans, mother of two and Senior Vice President of Small Business Marketing at Salesforce, believes values are the number one thing she passes on to her children. “Values are the bedrock of our family,” she says. “They’re how we live, and how we raise our children to live.”

    But home isn’t the only place she talks values. Rosecrans and other business leaders know a values-driven culture has become a must-have for any company looking to grow. “I have the same expectations for my team at work — we work according to our corporate values, and we hold each other accountable for them.” She laughs that her stern-yet-nurturing demeanor has earned her the “Team Mom” moniker. Yet joking aside, businesses that emphasize positive corporate values have higher levels of trust, employee motivation, and innovation.

  4. Direct communication is key.
    When teaching a child to talk, you don’t start with complex sentences. You start with the basics — mama, dada, dog, cat, ball. And entrepreneurs would do well to emulate this idea. “You can communicate just about any message with very few words,” says Olivia Omega, branding expert and Director of Brazen Denver Women Entrepreneurs. “Whether they’re toddlers or teenagers, that’s how my kids understand best.”

    You don’t need a manifesto for why you eat fast food (it’s cheap and convenient) or why you buy from Amazon (fast, free Prime shipping). So don’t give one for why somebody should buy your product, work at your company, or invest in you. Keep your brand messages short and sweet; that’s what makes them powerful.

  5. Goal setting helps us achieve great things.
    Parents have known for ages that helping kids set goals not only helps them achieve more, but also reinforces ideas like organization, discipline, and drive. Studies show goal setting also leads to higher self-esteem, and who couldn’t use more of that.

    But goal-setting isn’t just for kids; it’s also a vital aspect of the business world. You’re probably not surprised to learn goal setting is a common trait among successful entrepreneurs and peak performers, and business leaders would be wise to put a process in place to make it a company standard.

  6. Strong managerial skills are a universal need.
    Much of parenting involves developing intrinsic values, resolving disputes, and mentoring children as they develop. This makes mom and dad the household managers (just don’t ask them for a raise!). So it’s important to sharpen your managerial skills; after all, no one wants a helicopter parent — or a micromanager. “We’ve learned that managing a family is a lot like running a business. The household runs smoother, and the stakeholders — our children — are more engaged when we have a structured system that promotes open communication. It also helps us appreciate and celebrate everyone’s successes as a family,” says Heather Lipp, CFO of NIMBL.

    Likewise, business leaders and entrepreneurs could capitalize on those #momlife managerial traits. A good manager elicits top performance from his or her team, encouraging innovative work, strengthening skills, and bringing it all together to achieve workplace goals. While you wouldn’t want to treat your work team exactly like you treat your children, the analogy isn't too far off.

You can learn a lot about running a business by leading a family. After all, aren’t parents a bit like the ultimate entrepreneurs? They start with a dream, hatch a plan, study others in the field, and lose a lot of sleep trying to get it right. And this we know: When the poop hits the fan, parents — like business leaders — can use the skills above to masterfully right the ship.

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