The Business of Parenting

I’m not exactly sure what brought me to this conclusion. I have been thinking a lot about entrepreneurism lately, as my son gets closer to graduating from college and has dreams of starting his own business. (I am chalking that up as a parenting success, by the way.) So, in the strange place that is my mind, I realized that starting your own business and parenting have A LOT in common.

1. No instruction manual – Seriously, there are a lot of good books out there on both subjects, parenting and running a business, but there is absolutely no step by step instruction poster (I like those better than the books) on how to parent a child, particularly your first child, or how to run a start-up. Why is that? Well, every single time is different. Different children need different things. Mine were both happy kids that slept through the night relatively soon. Other friends and family have babies that are colicky or have other problems that keep them up all night. Each and every business start-up is different too. Different people, different product or industry, different business climate, different regulations. So, authors can give you some suggestions, but not a definitive “how-to”. A pity, that is.

workingtogether2. Teamwork – As the the head of a business, one of the things you want to do is create a culture of teamwork. “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts” and all that. Parenting a family is exactly the same. Only through teamwork between the parents will you create successful kids, and if you do it right, you create great teamwork in your family, everyone working towards shared goals and reaping shared rewards. There are only the three of us, but we make a pretty good team, whether it is getting ready for a family party or working on our events planning and management business. We generally work well together, and are loyal to each other.

3. 24/7 attention – If you would have told me that I would always have my kids on my mind before I had them, I am not sure I would have believed you. Raising a kid is all consuming. When they are young you worry about thumps in the night coming from their bedroom. When they are older you worry about whether they will get home safely, graduate from college, get a job, find someone to love, and a whole host of other things. A business is the same. You are the one at whose feet it all rests. Find the customers, do the work, send out the invoices. If you have a staff, you worry about making the money to keep them employed and the lights on.

4. Negotiation – Holy crap, is parenting a negotiation. I swore before I had kids I would never say the words “because I said so”….um…yeah…not so much. Rebecca probably hadn’t even been talking for a year before I had to pull that one out of the bag. Every single thing is a negotiation. This is a true teachable moment. I am a huge fan of Dr. Stephen Covey’s 4th habit in the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Think Win/win. Teach your kids that from early on, it’ll be a benefit for the whole of their lives. Negotiation is everything. Whether you are parent or business owner, everything starts with negotiation. Incidentally, if you haven’t read “7 Habits”, it isn’t just about being successful in business. It is the greatest self improvement book of all times, I think.

5. It gets easier – I think both parenting and running a business get easier with experience. As we learn from our mistakes and try new things. I certainly wasn’t a perfect parent. There are lots of things I would like a do-over on. I am not the perfect business owner. Every single day I find something else I need to learn. But as I have done things, I learn, and I become more confident in my decisions, both in parenting and as a small business owner. You want evidence of things getting easier? Ask the baby of the family and the oldest  about their experiences. Start with curfew. That’ll generally havea some spirited reactions.

6. You raise your kids to take over for you – My wife and I worked very hard to raise a child who is compassionate, and committed, and community minded. Someone who is a go-to person and who will carry forward some beautiful family traditions. It was important to me that my son be a person who understands the importance of doing his part to make the world a better place. I think I have succeeded in that. In your business, if you are doing it right, you nurture your staff to build the trust that allows them to take things off your plate. I don’t want to be working as hard when I am older as I am not. I want to build a nice business that will allow.

7. Finances – Anyone who is starting a family or is starting a business knows that financially speaking, both are freaking scary. There is never a good time for either. There is never enough money for either. Both take a leap of faith in yourself that you can make it work. My first foray into business ended horribly. It left me uncertain and in debt. It took me a long time before I was confident enough to do it again. My first foray in kids was equally as scary, equally as expensive, and in both cases, we made it work. In addition to having the start-up you need, teaching your kids and your employees about the finances of it all is an excellent way to help make sure your family and your business run well.

Pete-and-Adam-golf8. Rewards – In both cases, raising successful kids and running a successful business, there are really few things as rewarding. Sitting in the audience at your child’s 6th grade band concert or landing that big contract in your business can be equally as exhilarating. If you want your kids to be active in your life after they move out, lead by example and take care of your parents as well as being active in their lives while they are growing up.

When I wrote the first draft of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t” I was thinking it was a book for kids. I realized pretty quickly that kids are the least likely demographic to buy a self-improvement book, and I actually thought about scrapping the project. It was later I realized that all of these ideas were ideas that parents could and should instill in their kids from an early age. Teaching your kids these skills will pay rewards for both you and them, for the rest of your lives.

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