What’s more overwhelming than an already-stressful full time job? How about two jobs?
That’s the general perception most entrepreneurs have when describing their jobs-kids-family workload.
Recently, new father Simon Schneider reflected on the balance between running a start-up and running a family, in his article for Fast Company “How the birth of my son made me a better entrepreneur.”
“The arrival of a newborn comes with the sudden realization that you have no clue about what is going on,” said Schneider, currently CEO of the advice-sharing platform Zyncd.
“The first few weeks are trial and error—kind of like the early stages of a startup. The solution in both cases is to see what works, and get advice from experts about what doesn’t.”
Schneider, for example, cold-emailed the deputy security general of NATO and secured a meeting with him in Brussels. Soon enough, the company grew to 20 employees and was awarded $5 million in revenue.
Another lesson learned was that entrepreneurs can’t do everything, all of the time, especially with family commitments. To delegate, is the answer. Schneider had to outsource tasks to people who were in the same city, individuals he called “super smart” and fully dedicated to the responsibility.
Parent-executives have to accept that, like a newborn, business can be fickle, full of surprises and unpredictable.
“Applying that lesson from my private life to my startup also helped me deal with uncertainties and last-minute changes,” he explained.
Rob Schaumer, business coach, marketing counselor and CEO of Ascent Movers in Toronto, is a father of five kids under 12, and agrees with Schneider.
“In parenting and business, there’s science to it, but it’s very much an art. You never know what’s going to happen. You think you have it all figured out. You’ve read the parenting books, and you’re going to get your perfect trial. But you have to recognize each child is a different being – one who hasn’t read the rule book.”
So too, a client has their own needs, he adds. “You could have a great product, system, service, but if you don’t take the time to understand your customers – who they are and what their needs are – you can’t succeed. You also need to know each kid.”
Also, he’s found that it’s just as important to groom independence in children, as it is in employees.
“As a parent, part of raising your children is to help them become their own person, giving them the tools to become their own person. Recognize that point, and give them their own wings, and foster their own identity,” said the coach to executives from multi-million dollar corporations. “You employees should be taught how to fly on their own too.”
Ultimately, the balance of work and family can be tricky, Schaumer adds. It’s important to set parameters. “If you’re all about business, then you sacrifice your family; and if you sacrifice family, ultimately your business suffers. So you have to allow quiet time from both your family and business, to allow each to grow.”
Sarah Zeldman is a Thornhill-based e-marketer assisting business owners and entrepreneurs increase sales with strategic online marketing campaigns. She has a son, 13, and a daughter, 11, and offers htese three tips for the entrepreneur-parent:
- “Don’t let the roles consume you; you don’t want to be so enmeshed in your children’s needs and children’s lives, that you forget you have a career. The same thing with your business. You shouldn’t worry about either all day and night. That is a hard thing for people to do.”
- “You’re not always going to get it right. You’ll make mistakes. My biggest regret in parenting and business is trusting someone else’s instincts, not my own. If I’m going to make a mistake, at least it’ll be my mistake.”
- “Don’t try to do everything yourself. Motherhood shouldn’t be a solo sport; neither should entrepreneurship.”
Finally, for Carl Woodin, of Maple Glen, Pennsylvania, who runs AZtech Multimedia, he needed to balance work and family in a unique way.
When he had been traveling extensively, he says, he made sure to involve himself with his two boys (now teenagers): making them breakfast, taking them to the bus, greeting them when they came home from school, and attending sporting events.
“Running a business and being a parent have both taught me to be better at multitasking and to have more patience.”
This VentureBeat author would likely agree with Woodin. Andrew Rowling on how accepting responsibility as a father parallels with an entrepreneur doing the same:
“When you’re a parent, the buck stops with you. There is nobody more senior you can defer to, nobody else you can shift responsibility to. When someone has to make the tough decisions, it’s you.
What better description of life as an entrepreneur could you get?”
Photo via Flickr user Thomas Sauzedde