Running a Business and Growing a Family: A Real-Life Story of Success
Your client is demanding a design change at precisely the same moment that your newborn is demanding a diaper change. Sound familiar? If you’re a small business owner trying to raise a small human at the same time, you’ve undoubtedly faced some version of this scenario.
Whether you have a new baby, a new business, or they’re both in their “terrible twos,” achieving a work/life balance can be even more of a challenge when you’re both a small business owner and a parent with young children. We’ve got a few tips to help you balance it all, including some words of wisdom from a father and entrepreneur who’s been there.
Besides painting the nursery and stocking up on diapers, you’ll want to make sure your business is prepared, too. For Ryan Siu, whose son was born just two years after he purchased a coffeeshop in Bellingham, Washington, that meant making sure his staff was ready for more responsibility.
“I knew I wouldn’t be there as much after the baby came, so I started scaling back my hours a few months beforehand. That way my staff could have more time to really learn the ropes,” he explained.
It’s also a good idea to baby-proof your finances. If you’re not already keeping your personal finances completely separate from your business finances, now is the time to start. Try to put away a little extra cash ahead of time—in both your business savings and personal savings—to protect your business and your family against unforeseen changes.
Make your own rules
When you’re the boss, you get to decide what the new version of normal looks like. So your toddler might attend board meetings or you might present to investors with spit-up on your sleeve? That doesn’t make your business less legitimate—it just proves that you’re human. Don’t worry about what a typical workday “should” be, or even what it used to be. Figure out what works for you now and go with it.
“I still ran errands for the business, I just started running them with a baby strapped to me,” laughed Ryan.
Resist the urge to multitask
When you’re juggling multiple roles, it can be tempting to “create more time” by multitasking. But research shows that it takes longer to accomplish tasks when you’re trying to do more than one thing at a time. What’s worse, the quality of both those tasks suffers. Not only will you lose magic moments with your child because you’re distracted, your work is less productive because, you guessed it, you’re distracted.
Sure, you might still find yourself folding onesies while leading a conference call, but when it comes to tasks that require strategy and decision-making, try to focus on one thing at a time.
“Trust me, it’s very hard to make smart business decisions when you’re trying to sterilize bottles at the same time,” said Ryan.
This goes both ways. Those early months of parenthood fly by, and your child needs your full attention. When you look back in a few years, you’ll want to remember bonding with your new baby during those early-morning feedings—not checking your work email on your phone.
Recognize that you can’t do it all
As an entrepreneur you’re probably used to doing things on your own—but now’s the time to learn the power of delegation. “It really helps to have a solid team around you so you can start involving them in the business more,” said Ryan. “It’s also a great opportunity to find out what their strengths are.”
On the home front, consider hiring help for the day-to-day stuff, and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family members to pitch in. Ryan and his wife Whitney relied on Whitney’s mother to babysit on Mondays; you also might consider sit-swapping with other new parents to save on the cost of a babysitter or nanny.
There’s a steep learning curve that comes with being a new parent, so give yourself plenty of time to adjust—and know that it will get easier. “At first, you’ll feel like you’re lost on Baby Island,” admitted Ryan. “But you’ll quickly start to figure it out.” He also suggested giving your business goals a bit of a grace period as well. “Your 6-month plan might need to turn into an 18-month plan—and that’s perfectly okay,” he said.
Ryan’s number-one piece of advice for new parents and business owners? “It might sound cheesy, but communication is really the key,” he said. “Both with your spouse and your business partner, if you have one. Be open about what you need to get done and very realistic about what you can and can’t take on.”
At the end of the day, it helps to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all model of parenting—or entrepreneurship. However you choose to balance the two, take pride in the knowledge that you’re teaching your little one the value of pursuing a big dream.
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