Being a parent actually makes you better prepared to start a business.
August 24, 2018 8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
If you’re a parent, you know that raising a child is no walk in the park. Starting a business isn’t any easier. But, doing both at the same time? Who’d do that?
As it turns out: most entrepreneurs. According to 2009 survey data from the Kauffman Foundation, nearly 60 percent of entrepreneurs had at least one child when they started their first businesses. And I’m one of them — with a 3-year-old daughter who demands more attention than I can seem to give her.
The data alone can tell you that you don’t have to choose between being a parent and being an entrepreneur. But, I can tell you that we so-called “parentrepreneurs” actually have an advantage. At the end of the day, good parents and good entrepreneurs share a lot of qualities that can help them excel in both roles at the same time:
1. They love their babies.
According to a study recently published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, “Entrepreneurial love is strikingly similar to paternal love.” In other words, entrepreneurs treat their businesses like their “babies.” It makes sense, too. Being an entrepreneur isn’t much different from being a parent. They’re both about creating, nourishing and protecting your baby, even though it can be stressful, demand a huge amount of attention and resources, and keep you up late at night.
So, what does this mean for parents thinking of starting a business? It means that starting a business really isn’t that foreign to you after all. You know what it takes because you’ve done the same thing raising your child. Surely it’s challenging, but you know that you’d do everything in your power to help it grow and succeed — and you’d never say that it wasn’t worth it.
2. They are leaders.
You may not have formal leadership experience on your CV, but you definitely have it as a parent. Your children look up to you, and require you to be a strong role model for them, much in the same way that entrepreneurs must serve as mentors for their employees.
Ultimately, being a figure of authority is about building a rapport with those who depend on you — whether that mean your children, or your staff. As a parent, you’ve been able to practice and hone this skill over time. So, when it comes to trying your hand at being a boss, you already have the finesse and tact to lead your people successfully.
3. They encourage learning through failure.
Part of a being a good leader is recognizing the importance of encouraging learning through failure. You’ve seen your children crawl before they could walk, and know that not all skills can be taught — or developed overnight. As such, you know that encouraging your children to try new things and fail is a powerful way to promote learning.
When it comes to managing employees as an entrepreneur, the same idea holds true. If you want your company to grow, you need to allow your staff to fail. It’s in these failures that people learn the most, and build the skills they truly need to succeed. Environments that discourage failure ultimately foster resentment and make people want to leave you as soon as they turn 18 — or find a better job opportunity.
4. They have vast networks.
People are crazy to think that your social life ends as soon as you become a parent. Sure, you may spend less time at the bar, but between parenting classes, sports practice and school events, you’re actually more social than you ever have been.
But, why does this matter? As it turns out, a survey conducted by Yell Business found that parent entrepreneurs self-assessed their businesses more favorably than did their childless peers. More specifically, 79 percent of parents considered their businesses to be “very successful” and “quite successful,” compared to just 67 percent of non-parents — due, in part, to the vast networks you build and the communities become a part of as a parent.
5. They understand time management.
One of your biggest concerns about becoming a “parentrepreneur” is undoubtedly the thought that you won’t have enough time to devote to both your family and your business. However, entrepreneurship can actually give you freedom in many ways — particularly in terms of time.
Rather than working on a set schedule, being an entrepreneur allows you to manage your own time, and decide when to focus on family and when to focus on business. And since you’ve already developed sharp time management skills from having to juggle all of the tasks that come with raising a child, when you do decide to focus on business, you’ll be more motivated and able get your work done efficiently.
6. They know how to tell a story.
If you’re a parent, you’re probably an expert storyteller. You’ve learned that the best way to get your kid to listen is not to tell them what to do, but to tell them a fascinating story that makes the same point instead. And if you can do this as a parent, you can do it as an entrepreneur.
Business is all about connecting with people and telling a story that makes them believe. People need to connect with a brand and feel an emotional connection before they buy. For this reason, successful entrepreneurs, incorporate aspects of storytelling into everything from their marketing to the ways they design their products and services — just like Airbnb did with its Trips service.
7. They take risks.
Maybe you’ve taken out a loan for your child to be able to attend a private school, or maybe you just spend a little extra here or there to make them happy from time to time. Either way, having a child makes you responsible for more than just yourself, and often means taking on a great deal of financial, or other, risk.
Such willingness to take risk is a characteristic that good parents share with successful entrepreneurs. By taking risks, you learn to deal with constant challenges, which ultimately allow you to grow and become better at making decisions. And as both a parent and entrepreneur, this is a skill you can’t live without.
8. They get up early and are very productive.
When you’re a parent, you’re forced to get up early and get ready for the day with your family. You use the time to change diapers, cook breakfast and pack a lunch for everyone. In other words, you’ve already gotten accustomed to getting a head start on the day — working productively from the moment you wake up.
And in terms of business, the early bird does indeed catch the worm. As an entrepreneur, you need to be up early to respond to emails, contact clients and resolve any issues before they spiral out of control. So, for parents who are used to waking up early, there’s no drastic lifestyle change required when starting a business.
9. They have to plan ahead.
When a business or a child depends on you, you are forced to think ahead and plan accordingly. As a parent, for example, you might start saving early to pay for your child’s college tuition. And as an entrepreneur, you’re always trying to forecast demand for your product or service, and predict any issues ahead of time. But, this dependency is actually a blessing in disguise.
Studies show that old lonely people who get a pet have a much more happy and productive life because someone else depends on them for support. This shows that dependency gives you a meaning and purpose that is bigger than yourself. Striving to do better for others makes us better human beings — and therefore, better parents and entrepreneurs.
10. They are naive.
No one knows how to be a parent until they actually become one. In the same way, no one knows how to be an entrepreneur until they start their first business. So, while the idea of doing something new by starting a business might scare you, remember that it’s nothing you can’t handle (or haven’t handled before); you were in the same situation when you had your first child.
The truth is that this type of naivete actually helps you accept challenges and live without fear. It gives you confidence that you can make a difference, and the willingness to push norms and boundaries that you need to succeed in business. Entrepreneurs thrive by going against the grain. Being naive does just that — and actually makes you a better entrepreneur in the process.
Being a parent is no easy task, and being an entrepreneur is no easier. But, rather than thinking of the two as mutually exclusive, consider them complementary. Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you can’t start a business. In fact, it actually prepares you for a new career as an entrepreneur. So, if you’ve ever thought of starting a business, remember that it’s never too late.