Recently my wife Lindsay and I were blessed with our greatest adventure yet…becoming parents. In our case we were blessed with a two for one deal and had twins! A beautiful boy and girl.
Our journey to parenthood wasn’t easy, we “tried” for over 5 years, followed by a complicated pregnancy which included my wife being hospitalized for six weeks and followed by a 28 day stay in the NICU for both of our babies. Everyone is healthy and happy now and we feel so incredibly blessed!
Nothing can truly compare to the feeling that comes along with being a parent, and the love that you have for your child, or in our case children. However, during a recent conversation Lindsay and I discussed the similarities of parenting to co-founding startups. While we are new to being parents (and do not consider ourselves experts by any means), both Lindsay and I know what it is like to start a business and get it off the ground. As we continue down our journey of parenthood, we couldn’t help but notice they have a lot in common.
We decided to co-author this post together. We hope you enjoy it! Without any further delay, here are our 17 lessons learned from our two little startups.
1) Expect lots of late nights and hard work
Having a newborn means getting little to no sleep and working around the clock to make sure their needs are met. Both babies and start ups are completely dependent. If the parent doesn’t change the diapers and feed the baby, that does not get done just as if a founder isn’t working day and night to get their start up off the ground, no one else will. Parents and founders need to buckle up and be all in.
2) A strong commitment is needed to reach their potential
Good founders and parents both have a strong commitment to help their little startup(s) reach their potential. They put the needs of their little startup or child above their own so that they can grow. However, the commitment for a startup can be full of pivots, or even closing down one startup to focus on another – parenthood is a full commitment for life.
3) Both take on the culture of the creators (founders or parents)
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Whether you’re talking about a startup, or new little babies, their behaviors as they grow will be greatly influenced by the culture set in place by the parents (or founders). So be intentional about creating the right culture for your startup or kids. Remember if you’re cool, generally speaking your kids will be too.
4) The goal is to raise an outstanding adult / mature company
Any parent or co-founder has the goal of ensuring that their little one can not only survive, but thrive in their environment. You want to raise a startup, or child that can become an outstanding adult or mature company. One that is self sufficient, and can provide for their family.
5) They don’t care about your agenda
Startups need what they need when they need it. Just like babies. A baby doesn’t care if you are sick, or have a proposal to write, if you haven’t showered in 3 days, or are hungry. They care about their needs being met. The same is true with startups. Constant attention is required and there are no days off. If you do take time off, you better make sure you have someone watching that you trust. Your startup is either growing or declining – our job as parents of children and startups are to ensure our little ones have what they need to grow…all the time.
6) Don’t go at it alone – build a team
Raising a child, and starting a business is hard work. Thankfully you don’t have to go at it alone. Work to develop or leverage a support system or team to help you. Find good service providers, or managers to oversee your startup. Find family members or babysitters that you trust to watch your kids. The key is to delegate to people you trust that are capable. Be willing to ask your network for help and accept it when offered. I’m sure you heard the phrase “It takes a Village”, this is true for both startups and raising children.
7) Be on the same page with your partner
In business it is important that you have a vision that is clearly articulated and adopted by your team and partners. Abraham Lincoln once said a house divided cannot stand. When you have two forces pulling in different directions, for example founders with different agendas or goals, the startup suffers. The same is true in parenting. Ensure that you and your partner communicate, resolve differences of opinion and are on the same page – both working for the common good of your child(ren). Start this process before you even bring your startup, or children into existence.
8) Nobody will love your children or start up like you
The moment we laid eyes on our little miracles, something within us changed. We felt a love like no other. No one is going to care about our kids the way that parents and often grandparents do. The same is true with our startups. The founders have to be the example for working hard on the start up. As founders, we have to realize that our “employees” are not going to love our business like we do and it is our job to inspire them to work hard. Our love for our children is very personal and Entrepreneurship is very personal as well.
9) Don’t be defeated
Sometimes you can try your best and things still don’t work out as you’d like. It’s important to realize that both startup and parent life will not always go your way and you will likely get frustrated. It’s important through all the setbacks that you are able to pick yourself up, stay encouraged and move on with the same optimism and hope as when you started.
10) You need to learn & adapt as you go
Both new parents and new founders don’t have all the answers when they start on their journey. There is no “instruction manual”. It is important to learn quickly and be able to adapt as you move along. For your business, incorporate new concepts, tips and tricks you learn from other founders. For parents, follow your doctors orders and seek advice from fellow parents. In both instances, see what works for you and ditch what doesn’t.
11) Be ready for big financial investments
Babies gotta eat, and if you want them to grow properly they need to obtain all of their proper nutrients. They also regularly outgrow their clothes, may need medicine, fresh new toys and much more. That’s before we even think about college funds, or cars down the line. All of this costs money. Startups also have many requirements for growth, and someone has to pay the bills! It often falls on the parents or founders. Finding the right talent, or specialists to help you with your startup, or work with your child can be expensive, but can provide a great return on investment!!!
12) You need a strong foundation – Take time for your self
They often say on airplanes that “In the case of an emergency, parents should put their masks on first before doing so for their child.” This is because if the parent isn’t able to breathe, they won’t be very effective while helping their kids. The same is true in the world of startups. Often times both founders and parents are in a Go, Go, Go mode. If the health of a founder or parent declines and they get knocked off their feet, the child or startup will also suffer. As a parent of a child or founder of a startup, be sure that you do set aside time for you. Seek to maintain your mental and physical health. This could involve reading a book, going to the beach, having a nice dinner with your significant other, going to the gym or setting aside some time weekly to do something you love. For my wife that is spending time with our horses. For me, it’s going to the gym or on hikes.
13) Always measure key indicators for growth
Both children and new businesses should be measured to see how they are performing. Are they keeping up with their peers, or lagging behind. There are many different indicators that can be measured. For children, some include: Height, weight, milestones (like rolling over, crawling, walking, talking, solid foods, being potty trained, etc). For startups, some include: sales, profitability, customer growth, acquisition costs, employee growth, and much more. By measuring various indicators founders and parents can become aware of trends and potential risks, equipped with this information they can seek to address potential problems to ensure the startup or child continues to grow properly.
Here is our kiddos at their six month mark. Healthy, growing well and a long way from their 2 lb 10 oz days.
14) It gets easier then harder again – there are cycles
Sometimes things just click and go smoothly. It’s great when they do. But the ups don’t last forever, sooner or later you’ll have a dip. Your child or startup will misbehave and you’ll experience challenges. Then before you know it you’re back to smooth sailing again and amazed by the progress.
15) Nurture unique gifts & talents
There are lots of children and businesses born every day. Not to mention the substantial amount of them that already exist. This being the case it is important to stand out. As a parent this involves recognizing your child’s unique gifts and talents that they may not even see in themselves. Nurture these abilities and help develop them. By doing so they can differentiate and find their space in a crowded world. The same goes for startups. Nobody wants to be a commodity that has no differentiation or competitive advantage. Find what makes your startup or child special and focus on that.
16) Advice – take it or leave it. Everybody has an opinion.
Everywhere you turn someone will have an opinion on how to raise your child. “You should do this, you shouldn’t do that”. I find this to be very similar to entrepreneurship. Even those that have never ran a business will have an opinion. Advice from people who can totally relate to what you are going through as a parent or who understand your business and you trust should always be considered. Remember, as a parent or a founder, the choice is yours! In both cases, you may need to let advice/opinions go in one ear and out the other and that is totally OK!
17) Time will tell what your creations will evolve into
When we look at our children we can’t help but wonder what they will become. Will they be a doctor, or lawyer? A singer, or maybe an athlete? Maybe future entrepreneurs?All we know is that they have potential and we as parents want that potential to be realized. Many founders start a business and end up in a business that is very different than what they initially anticipated. In the movie The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg said (referring to Facebook): “We don’t even know what it is yet, or what it can become. We just know it’s cool!” That’s how parents are. Mark Zuckerberg’s startup worked out very well for him! We’re excited to see what heights our little startups reach!
This post was a co-written by my wife Lindsay and I. Lindsay Brim is the co-founder of Crossroads Corral, a non-profit 501(c)(3) based in Central Florida that promotes personal growth, hope and healing through the use of horses.