There is nothing more overwhelming in the world than becoming a parent. The list of items you need to buy feels never ending (more on this later), as does the number of safety hazards in your house. Every person you talk to wants to impart their words of wisdom about how to be a “good” parent or to tell you about the one “best,” miracle product out there that makes parenthood a breeze.
It’s a joyful but stressful time and there’s no amount of preparation you can do, number of books you can read, podcasts you can listen to, or friends you can ask that will truly prepare you for the day when your schedule goes completely out the window and the center of your universe shifts.
The same challenges can be said about entrepreneurship. There’s no shortage of people -- whether they be investors, friends and family, or strangers on LinkedIn and Twitter -- who are ready to tell you about why you need to change this specific thing about your product or how your business model is flawed.
Now that I’m not only the co-founder and CEO of Lalo, a baby gear brand that is focused on taking the guesswork out of shopping for little ones, and a dad myself, I’m glad I reflected on some of the wise and valuable insights shared by others, but didn’t take every word as gospel.
Why? Because at the end of the day, in parenting and entrepreneurship, the most important thing is knowing when to go your own way. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, a perfect CEO or perfect business owner. There is no “one size fits all” approach you can take -- what works for my son or my business may not work for yours.
Interestingly, this is actually the exact insight -- the importance of understanding that there are no cookie cutter solutions, that everyone is different -- that my co-founder and I recognized when we started our company.
Here’s a good example from my life of when popular advice wasn’t a fit. You often hear in entrepreneurship circles how important it is to be passionate about your product. That this is an absolute must. Simply put, that wasn’t the case for me. People are often surprised to learn that we launched Lalo two years before my son was born -- before I had a need for high chairs or sippy cups (or strollers, bibs -- as all parents know, the list of what you need for baby goes on).
What I was passionate about, however, was the problem we were solving: the overwhelming nature of shopping as a new or expectant parent. From day one this is where we focused. Our experience was different and it was centered on listening. Whether via video chat or going back and forth on Messenger with customers, we wanted them to know that we understood they were unique and that we had their backs. Their family, their needs, their concerns were important, and something they wanted to talk about. That communication -- the two-way conversation -- is one of the things that makes Lalo different.
In fact, I believe this focus on dialog and conversation, our use of online platforms like Messenger to connect with customers in real-time and our emphasis on continuous customer service is what saved us during the pandemic. We were always set up to listen. Unlike many other brands, we weren’t scrambling to ramp up customer service or scale video chat and messaging. We didn’t have to pivot. And because customers could actually come to our website and connect with someone in real-time for answers to their questions, we grew by 300% over the course of the coronavirus.
I’m by no means saying to ignore sound business or parenting advice. There have been countless times when the words of wisdom I received from others helped me as CEO and as a Dad. But just remember, you’re allowed to listen to your gut too, even if it strays from conventional wisdom. In my experience, being a parent and business owner is a balancing act in more ways than one, and among the most important things you’ll have to figure out is welcoming all conversations while deciding which insights are applicable to you, to your business, to your family. At the end of the day, it’s your call. You’ve got to go your own way.