I find inspiration as an entrepreneur in the funniest places: in the checkout line for groceries, while exercising, and even while parenting my four beautiful children.
You might be surprised what lessons you can learn about running a business if you’re a parent!
1. You Don’t Have to Be Popular to Be an Effective Leader
At least a dozen times a day, one of my children is mad at me. Maybe I put the kibosh on more computer time or said no to letting my daughter go to a party on Friday night. Whatever wrong I’ve done, I acknowledge that sometimes my kids don’t agree with my decisions.
It’s the same with employees. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be your kids’—or your staff’s—best friend to get the job done. It’s enough to simply make decisions based on the greater good of the team.
2. A Sympathetic Ear Can Go a Long Way
Whether I’m listening to my teenage daughter’s latest heartbreak or a client’s sad story, I’ve learned that simply being there and being sympathetic helps build trust. I’m not trying to solve the problem for either my daughter or my client; simply by listening, I show I care.
Paying attention can, in fact, win major points with clients. I try to really hear what they’re saying and remember it so that later when we meet again I can ask how their mother is doing, how their kid did in that Little League tournament, et cetera.
3. Be Available, But Have Limits
My kids know I’d do anything for them. But they also know it’s not a good idea to wake me up in the middle of the night and ask me for a favor without good reason. Likewise, I let my clients know I’d go to the moon and back for them … within limits. I don’t answer my emails or work phone after hours, on the weekends, or on vacation, and I hope my clients respect me for that.
It’s important to me that my clients know I have a life outside of work, and that they acknowledge the line between me running my business and me running my family.
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4. Enabling Your Team Is a Win-Win
At home, I teach my kids how to problem solve. They have their own responsibilities, and my husband and I encourage them to figure out how to manage them without running to us for help every time. At work, I enable my staff to make decisions that are best for both the customers and the company; I don’t want them to feel like they have to come to me every time they need to make a decision.
As a result, both kids and employees feel empowered and trusted. I know they’re capable of doing what’s right for everyone, and they feel good knowing I rely on them.
5. Sometimes You Need Your Space
My husband and I have regular date nights to have a little breathing room from both the kids and our business (which we run together). While we love both very much, we also recognize that we are more than parents and entrepreneurs. We’re husband and wife as well as two people who enjoy a good meal and glass of wine.
Being an entrepreneur, as well as a parent, is about balance. You can’t do one thing well if that’s all you focus on. Taking time for yourself—re-exploring old hobbies, maybe—can make you more well rounded in every aspect of your life.
About Nellie Akalp
Nellie Akalp is a serial entrepreneur and small business expert. She currently serves as the CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs start a business,incorporate, form an LLC, and offers free business compliance tools. Connect with Nellie on Google+.