I’m writing this while at the airport waiting for my flight to Moxy’s regional HQ in Bangkok, Thailand. Last night was a rough night. No, this does not mean dancing till the sun comes up and still being intoxicated by too many beers. It was a rough night because my youngest of 7 months is teething (for the non-parents out there, this means his first teeth are coming through and it makes babies sensitive and cry more) and my oldest (3 years) still has the tendency sometimes to sneak into our bed around 3:00AM and continue his dream about being karate kid. All good, but usually it’s me and my wife that are the victim of his side kicks and elbows. It’s clear my definition of a “good night’s rest” has evolved a bit during the last 3 years.
Being a parent can be challenging sometimes, but being a parent and entrepreneur at the same time can take the word “challenge” to the next level. That’s why people usually think that being a parent and entrepreneur can’t go hand in hand. During the last 3 years I have learnt a lot about being a parent and building a business, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the opposite is actually true. To make it even more bold, I believe that being a parent can make you a better entrepreneur. The 5 reasons that I think being a parent can amplify your entrepreneurial super powers are:
1. Kill procrastination
“My favourite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” – Steve Jobs
As a parent you don’t have much time on your hands. Of course I would love to play with my kids for hours, but at the same time my other startup needs similar attention and dedication. It sometimes feels I have two startups, one being my kids and the other being the company that we’re building. Being in such a position makes you very sensitive for bullsh*t meetings without action or too much empty talk in general. How do I spend my time? Is it creating added value or not? Procrastination is always a killer, ready to attack. To kill procrastination and optimise efficiency throughout the day I organise my day to the minute. Starting from playtime with my son in the morning, to the meetings I have during the day and bed-time stories with my kids at night. This makes you work very efficient so you’re not wasting your time on things that don’t bring added value, either to your family or the company that you’re building.
Having a family makes me more aware of how I spend my time. Every minute I spend not with my family, I want to spend it on something useful. That’s also how I see the business. I want to give it my all, because I’m not here to play around and just try things out. The fact that you know two little children are fully dependant on your performance gives a certain urgency and fire that is indescribable.
Children need structure just like startups do. Children thrive when they have structure. Fixed time to go to sleep, fixed time to go to school and our bed ritual always starts with taking a bath and then brushing his teeth. Structure and procedures are also crucial to startups. Don’t get me wrong. If I say structure I don’t mean being rigid. I mean having proper procedures in place so that people know what to do. Clear procedures so that it’s clear what the different divisions can expect from each other. An organisation with a h2 structure and clear procedures can be very agile and is ready to thrive in a changing environment.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the startup game. Hitting targets can give you a great euphoric feeling. Not hitting your targets or losing important suppliers can give you a sense that your world is falling apart. Life as an entrepreneur is like a roller coaster.
Kids have an amazing way of giving you a sense of perspective. They keep you on an even keel and are a great reminder of what’s important to worry about, and what’s not.
One of the first things you learn as a parent is that things change and a perfectly planned day out can change in a split second. In a startup being agile is key to survival and success. A changing environment, team, vision, suppliers, you name it. Change and sometimes even chaos are things you need to embrace as an entrepreneur in a startup environment. The essence of staying on top is how you react to change and try to ride the wave and react fast to the changing environment.
I truly believe that being a parent can give you some extra super powers to make you a better and more effective entrepreneur. It’s a process that I’m still learning to master every day. There are good days and there are bad days. In all honesty I’m aiming for progress not perfection. If you have kids and run a business, please let me know your thoughts. I would love to read how all of you achievers out there are juggling between family and business life. All your comments and suggestions are highly appreciated.