I started my business very soon after becoming a mum, and both have been a steep learning curve! As far as motherhood goes, children are excellent teachers, and my daughter has led the way in many respects. Watching her take on the world and conquer new challenges every day, I realised children have a few things to teach us in the business department as well.
1. Make it happen
As adults, we agonise over every decision, confront every opportunity with impostor syndrome and find our steps forward halted by fear. Babies have no such hang-ups. If my daughter thinks she wants to do something, she just gets on with it. She can’t talk yet, but she does it anyway. She will chatter away at great length to anyone who’ll listen, not worrying in the slightest that they can’t understand what she’s saying. Not only has no one criticised her for not having nailed the English language yet, but everyone she encounters actively encourages her and supports her learning. So far, that incomprehensible chatter has enabled to her to conquer the words “hi,” “cat” and “quack”. Pretty impressive progress, all things considered.
So stop worrying about whether you’re going to be perfect, and start doing something. If you’re missing key skills or resources, find someone to help you. You’re not going to get any closer to your goal by worrying about it, so just crack on.
2. Take risks
One of the biggest issues I encounter in businesses is a terror of perceived risks. Many organisations, particularly those with more traditional backgrounds, view stepping into the realm of social media and online content in the same way my mother used to look at me going out to a pub – utterly convinced that terrible, terrible things will happen. But the risks are rarely as big in reality as they are in your mind. The actual worst that could happen is not that bad.
I was scared of my daughter taking any knocks or falls – but I quickly realised I was going to have to get over that. She is right on the cusp of starting to walk, and therefore spends at least a third of her waking life falling over. Sometimes she will take a little bump on the way down, and sometimes there will be tears. But there have been none of the blood, lumps and trauma I was frightened of. The tears last for a maximum of 20 seconds and then she’s back on her feet trying to do the same thing again. She seems to know instinctively that she will have to fall a few times in order to succeed, and there is no fear of falling holding her back from trying.
Making mistakes is scary, and falling down is never fun. But the rewards outweigh the risks, and it rarely hurts as much as you think it will.
3. Try and try again
When she’s falling down – over, and over, and over – I’ve noticed that the times my daughter starts to cry aren’t necessarily the times that she bumps herself. She’s more likely to have a little cry if the way she has fallen prevents her from getting back up or having another go at whatever her end goal was. (For example, getting at my laptop.) No matter what knocks she takes in pursuit of her objective, she keeps on going. I have never once seen her go, “Hmm, I’ve fallen down three times now trying to reach this laptop. Maybe I’m just not good at reaching laptops. Maybe I should give up trying to reach a laptop and focus on reaching something closer, like a cushion.”
Failure is not a sign you should give up, it’s something you should learn from. So if things didn’t go right this time, understand why and use that knowledge next time so that you get closer. Then next time you’ll get closer. Until your sticky little fingers are all over that keyboard…
4. Treat everyone you meet as a potential ally
I’ve written before about the importance of collaboration over competition, and I am pleased to see my baby has embraced this principle. As I mentioned above, one of the first words she learned was “hi,” and she employs it at every chance she gets. When we sit on the bus, she greets every new person that gets on. As we move through the supermarket, she waves at everyone she passes. She lights up every time someone says hello back, but if people don’t respond she is not in the least disheartened, she just moves on to the next potential new friend.
For someone like myself who is incredibly shy, meeting new people does not come easily. But I’m taking a leaf out of my daughter’s book – at nine months-old she is infinitely wiser than me in this respect. Every person you meet could be a potential friend, collaborator or supporter. So take each and every possible opportunity to connect with other human beings, because otherwise what is even the point?!
5. Give out what you want back
I’ve had many a former client complain that they want more loyalty from their customers, more engagement, more appreciation, but what are they giving out to make that happen? Shouting and stamping their feet about their products and waiting for the adoration to flood in? It doesn’t work that way.
I’m struck, repeatedly, by the unadulterated joy and positivity that radiates from my little girl. She has a huge smile for everyone she meets, she gets so excited when she sees someone she knows that she actually throws herself in the air, and every new experience she encounters is cause for an explosion of mirth. And guess what? Everyone she comes across responds with pure positivity in return.
You get back what you give out, so if you want loyalty from your customers, you need to invest in them. If you want people to feel engaged with and connected to your brand, you need to spend time building a relationship. Throwing a tantrum never won any friends. When you share your toys and your carrot sticks, though, you’ll be the most popular kid in the playground.
6. Embrace the challenge
I am not a morning person. I need at least two cups of coffee before I’m ready to function. But since becoming a mother I’ve been woken up at 6.30am every day, to the sounds of a small person singing to herself. At least, I think that’s what she’s doing, it’s hard to tell. All I can hear on the baby monitor is a rhythmic, “do, do-do, do do do, do-de-dooo.” Even at that ungodly hour, it’s pretty cute.
My daughter greets every new day with excitement and enthusiasm. She squeals with pleasure when I come to get her in the morning, and loves nothing better than looking out of the window at the bright sunshine of a new morning. Whether it’s sunny or not, that’s what she’s seeing. She can’t wait to get started, because the new day brings new opportunities, new experiences and new potential friends.
If we all approached every new day like a nine-month-old baby, what a great world it would be!