There is a metaphorical relationship between parenting and growing a company. In fact, learning to be a good parent is one of the best preparations for becoming a good founder. And, conversely, learning to be a good founder is great preparation for parenting.
Here are three early lessons for all mindful parents that are highly relatable for founders:
- Early parents discover the loss of control over their time. And, then, the only way they can find the joy in parenting is when they discover the liberation in this relinquishment. A mindful parent knows that every glorious childhood moment is fleeting and that makes choices about how to spend time much easier. Whereas choice paralysis over where to apply one’s energy can consume ones parenting life, the attention children demand frees parents from needing to balance competing options.
- All mindful parents learn that parenting mastery is an illusion. From the moment they arrive, children are in a constant and everlasting state of change. As soon as you have figured them out and optimized your time and attention to who you think they are, their needs change and you are back to adjusting yourself to accommodate.
- Mindful parents love their children even when they sputter, fail or turn into something unexpected. Over time, parents learn not to judge or to even be disappointed by seeming letdowns. The kid who fails to adopt your most beloved hobby will often lead you to a new passion you’d never contemplated. Watching your child struggle at some key stage in development enhances the joy when that child finally succeeds.
Every good founder will recognize these three lessons, as they gain the same lessons in working to grow a company. Founders find joy or even flow in the relinquishment of time as the company’s needs require unapologetic attention. Every stage of a company’s development requires a new skill set. The abilities applied to the pre-revenue company are totally different from the abilities that need to be applied to the company as it scales.
A founder who is highly frustrated by the ups-and-downs of business may ultimately succeed, but the anxiety will rob that founder of joy to be found in guiding the company and its team through problems to find solutions and ultimately take advantage of unforeseen opportunities.
All of this relates to time management and the importance of delegation. As parents and founders know better than anyone else that it is impossible to control time. And, as such, the maximization of joy is all about choosing the most meaningful ways to spend your time.
You can always do everything yourself. But focus requires you to say no to certain tasks and to delegate so that you can spend more time on activities that matter most.
You, for example, obviously have the skills to perfectly track expenses, keep your CRM up-to-date, find prospects, follow up with contacts, and prepare for conferences. But delegating these tasks will ensure they get done with more focus so that you can focus on your child and your company’s growth.
I used to involve myself in every sale. That’s a place I knew I added value, but it also took a lot of time and energy. Going from sale-to-sale robbed me of the ability to stand back and see the big picture so I could steer the company to where it could do new kinds of sales. Coaching others to sell turned out to be super fulfilling, and it freed tons of time so I could focus my energy elsewhere.
Similarly, I also used to involve myself in each social conflict inside the company. Parents find that if they involve themselves in sibling conflicts, the siblings never learn to resolve their own issues. Founders will also find that if they refrain from trying to solve conflict among the ranks, this conflict will go away more quickly.
Finally, I used to prepare my own financial reports. Doing so, made me feel closer to the bottom line and as if I had a better pulse for how things are going. In reality, though, it kept me from spending time strategizing and coaching others. Eventually, I found a bookkeeper capable of maintaining the books and delivering me the key reports I needed to steer the company. This freed much time so I could actually steer it.
Good parents and good founders all know that they can’t manage time and can only manage themselves in time. They also know that mastery of their roles is elusive. Kids and companies are in a constant state of dynamic change. Parents and founders must constantly adjust their skills and perspective to keep up. Finally, parents and founders both learn that they can never judge things in the moment. Failures result in unexpected learning that leads to previously unimagined success.
In all this, we must all look for ways to coach others to perform duties that may have once required ourselves but that we’ve repeated enough times to document and to delegate.