The common traits of parents & entrepreneurs
Parenthood — even just the word itself may be enough to give some business owners a chill. After all, becoming a parent and starting your own business are two of the most challenging things you can do, so doing both at the same time must be crazy, right? Well, not as much as you might think.
As both a new father of two (one and three years old) and a co-founder of Laundrapp (one year old) I often see parallels between my role as a father and CEO. Laundrapp is the UK’s most popular dry cleaning and laundry app and also happens to be one of Europe’s fastest growing tech start-ups — but it’s also my baby. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow and have fostered that growth using many of the same skills I use as a parent.
For example, as a parent you learn the value of discipline and routine. Discipline doesn’t look the same for everyone because everyone needs to find a routine that works for them, whether it’s wearing the same t-shirt everyday like Facebook founder (and recent father) Mark Zuckerberg or reading your kids a story before bedtime. I find that routine helps keep me on-track and focused throughout the day, whether I’m dealing with the kids or planning Laundrapp’s nationwide expansion. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what your routine is, but sticking to one is a key foundation of growing a successful business and a happy family.
As a parent you also learn the importance of time management and planning on a daily basis. I love my children but becoming a parent frankly turns your whole life upside-down and sometimes the only way to weather the storm is by planning for every possible outcome before it happens. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been grateful to carry a spare nappy or the family iPad for that matter. Likewise in business I often tell my team to always prepare for the worst and hope for the best — an approach which has served us well over the last year.
Whether you’re wondering what to carry in your nappy bag or trying to spot issues in your supply chain, the underlying premise is the same. Planning now ensures success later — although, as every parent knows, things don’t always go according to plan. When that happens, Of course, as every parent who’s tried to take the kids out shopping will know, things don’t always go to plan…
As an entrepreneur I’ve always recognised that stress is an inevitable part of anything that’s worth doing, but that goes double for building a business and raising children. Screaming children, constant mess and crushing financial obligations are a perfect recipe for sleepless nights — and that’s just when you’re in the boardroom!
The fact of the matter is that in both parenthood and business, stress comes with the territory. The difference is that you can’t choose when to deal with child-related stress. At work it can be comforting to know that ultimately you call the shots and you can choose when to tackle problems — but there’s no such privilege at home. Instead, you need to deal with stress immediately and directly.
Personally, I think that’s the most important lesson there is in business and parenthood — that stress has to be confronted in a calm, decisive and intelligent manner. It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with team mates or toddlers (and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, only kidding team), you should never lose your cool. Yes, you should have a plan. No, you shouldn’t panic when the plan changes. You should adapt.
Adaptation — that’s the key, both in parenthood and business. Children, like customers, constantly respond in ways you can’t anticipate and sometimes the only way to cope is by thinking on your feet. You may not have planned on pivoting your business anymore than you may have planned on waking up seven times a night to sing a baby to sleep, but both are situations you have to face boldly.
Being a parent and starting your own business can both be challenging and rewarding — but only if you can learn to react to a constantly evolving environment in a positive way. Personally, I’ve learned to react to pressure by finding new processes and routines. Whether I’m searching for a way to scale my business or convincing my children to put down their iPads, I know the solution lies in perseverance, patience and innovation — all of which are things I learned along the way.