The parallels between entrepreneurship and parenthood are plentiful. With Mother’s Day weekend upon us in the US, we asked EO members what lessons they have inadvertently learned through parenting their children. Here’s what they shared:
1. Be fearless
It’s remarkable to see the faith that my two toddlers have that everything will be ok. They trust in others with a fearlessness that makes me want to go back in time to recapture in myself. They are willing to try anything: Food, new experiences, meeting people—they are incredibly adaptable to change.
Taking risks and trusting your intuition are critical in entrepreneurship. As I parent them, I continuously remind them—and myself—to be fierce and unafraid.
— Veronique James, EO Arizona, founder and CEO, The James Agency
2. Know how to say no
When my oldest son was just barely old enough to talk, he would respond to some of our requests with, “I just can’t want to do that,” in a very matter-of-fact way. It was as if he was saying, “Sorry, I’d love to help you, but it’s simply out of my control. I just have no motivation or desire whatsoever to do that.”
As an entrepreneur, you have to know when to say no if something is not in your skill set. Unfortunately, many of us learn that lesson the hard way. There are so many opportunities available; focusing on the best ones is critical. A firm no is often as important—if not more so—than saying yes.
— Brannon Poe, EO Charleston, founder, Poe Group Advisors
3. Ask precisely for what you want
My youngest child is extremely determined. When she sets her mind on something, she will get it. She’s taught me to dream big and never settle. When she wants a toy, she is relentless. I am amazed how at such a young age, she has learned to phrase an “ask” and make it impossible for me or anyone else to say no. As an entrepreneur, it has taught me how to ask precisely for what I need and might want.
— Liza Roeser, EO Idaho, founder and CEO, Fifty Flowers
4. You’re more adaptable than you think
As a born planner, I never planned to have a baby and start a business at the same time. But that’s what happened: My daughter was born in April 2013; my first gym opened in June 2013. After a two-week maternity leave, I started running staff meetings at my house while breastfeeding and figuring out the new baby routine. After the gym opened, she slept in her car seat under the front desk while we worked 6am through 11pm, seven days a week for the first year. It was unprepared, unplanned and totally hectic.
Reflecting back, I now realize that sometimes the best things in life are unplanned. My daughter is a happy, charming and social girl. I’ve also learned that both she and I are more adaptable than I thought!
— Alice Kao, EO Los Angeles, co-founder and managing director, Sender One Climbing
5. Sales is like negotiating with your 5-year-old
Five-year-olds are smarter than you think! And clients—even enterprise-level clients—are not as scary and sophisticated as they may seem. Underneath, we’re all just (5-year-old-ish) humans with similar, basic needs for attention and acknowledgment.
My biggest takeaways: First, cater to what they care most about. Second, be simple and clear on your position and proposition. Finally, maintaining a sense of calm and being polite goes a long way toward success when dealing with both children and clients.
— Andre Chandra, EO San Francisco, founder and CEO, PROPELO Media
6. Offer customized solutions
Your firstborn “starter child” comes with no handbook, so you figure out parenthood, similar to how you figured out entrepreneurship. Then, if you’re fortunate enough to have more children, you think you’re on easy street. You’ve got this because you’ve been through it once—right? Not exactly. Just as no two businesses or clients are alike, neither are children. So, it’s back to the drawing board.
Many parenting lessons carry over into business. A big one is to customize your solution to fit the individual needs of your clients. In parenting, this means that for one child, I can raise an eyebrow to tweak their behavior, but for the other, I could raise both an eyebrow and my voice and make my head spin around, but she’d only look at me and say, “That’s a weird face, Mom.”
— Michelle Fish, EO Charlotte, founder and CEO, Integra Staffing
This post originally appeared on EO’s Inc.com channel and is reposted here with permission.