By PETRA SMITH
In a way, starting a family and starting a business are very similar. They both come with a lot of joy, challenges and require a significant amount of discipline and routine. And, while the world is full of parenting experts and books, nothing can prepare you for what’s coming. And, just like a child, every business is different, reaching its various developmental stages at different times. Some arrive with a loud announcement, others are quietly building their influence; some start walking or even running early, others take their time, and they all have different talents and qualities.
But the most important similarity is the endless learning that both business and parenting bring. Every day is new as our children and businesses develop, taking us out of our comfort zone and pushing us to do things we never thought we’d be able to do. And often we don’t realise how much our own children can teach us about being successful in business, as well as our personal lives – here are a few things I’ve learnt so far from mine:
1. If you don’t communicate no one will understand you
Lack of communication is one of the main reasons why relationships don’t work. If you don’t communicate, there is no way anyone will understand what’s on your mind. No-one can read your mind and if you will wait for others to figure out what you want them to do, you will be waiting for a long time. Babies get frustrated when they can’t express themselves and we as parents get frustrated when we are trying to figure out their different types of crying. It gets easier to understand them as they get bigger and start using words to express themselves.
In business, many of us assume that everyone understands what we do and will come to us. But they are not mind readers – it’s our job to explain and simplify how our business makes their life better or easier, as well as deliver it to them. Communication at every stage – from marketing to delivery is what can make or break your business. Because you can be the best at what you do, but if your customers don’t understand the positive impact it brings to them, they will move on.
2. Failure is part of progress
The path to success is not linear. We learn through failure – it makes us more aware of the risks. We get more comfortable with change, and overall it builds our resilience. How many times do children fall before they start walking confidently or how many accidents does it take before learning to ride a bike? Many. But children don’t just accept that they will never walk – they get back on their feet because there is so much to gain.
Everything we do – successfully or unsuccessfully – is about learning. And failing at certain things doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the path, it’s simply a sidestep that is most likely there to lead us to something better. Very often we will look back at what we perceive as a failure or a disaster in the past just to realise that it was for the best, even if we didn’t understand it at that time.
3. The biggest achievements start with the smallest step
The hardest thing in any process is finding the courage and taking the first step – no matter if it’s your child’s first step or a milestone in your business. But success is not an event, it’s a series of little things that form into significant achievements. It requires persistence and consistency, but it’s those tiny changes and habits that will lead you to become a better entrepreneur and parent. You don’t need to know it all before taking the first step – you will either succeed or learn something new, either way, it’s worth taking the risk.
Look at your children’s feet – they might be small, but they can walk the same distance as you. Yes, they might need to walk at a slower pace, or you might need to carry them at times, but they will get there as long as you set them up on the path and help them to take that first step – no matter where you are heading.
4. New experiences are scary, but the rewards are worth it
Nothing ever grows in comfort zones and if you want to achieve something that you never have, you will need to start doing things you never did. Taking a deep breath, like diving into a swimming pool when the water is just a little too cold and facing the discomfort might be unpleasant for a short time, but will bring you positive benefits for the long term.
Just like your child might cry through their first day of nursery, they will also soon discover the fun and new experiences they will love, as well as in many cases finding friends for life. Fear is natural and we all feel it. But learning to feel the fear and doing what we came for anyway is what makes the difference in moving forwards – after all, what’s the worst that’s going to happen?
5. Success doesn’t happen overnight
Overnight success is the exception, not the rule. Success takes persistence and consistency – whether this is you potty training your child or selling your first big project. It takes time. And sometimes, even when things are progressing well, they might regress for a little bit. At other times there will be things that are out of your control that will have a significant impact on your business and family life.
Learning to accept that there are things that are out of our control can help us focus on those elements of our business and family life that we can change. It can also help us to accept challenges and turn them into opportunities. While success might not be immediate, it’s the journey that matters as every day it takes us a little bit closer to where we want to be.