New small business owners and new parents have more in common than meets the eye. Both have, after all, welcomed something new into the world that’s deeply connected to who they are. In both cases — raising a kid or growing a business —the right balance of care, humility, and perseverance can go a long way to achieving a successful outcome.
If you’re looking to grow a business but have no idea where to start, there’s no doubt a parent out there who can relate.
With the help of someone who’s done both — serial entrepreneur, dad, and Maple founder, Michael Perry — we’re sharing some valuable advice for taking your brand to the next level.
“Parenting and entrepreneurship have a ton of similarities but the emotional rollercoaster and learning curve standout the most,” says Michael. When pressed, though, he’ll tell you that parenting is harder. “No question.”
Every parent, like every business owner, starts from scratch: no user manual yet almost too much advice at every turn. As you prepare to grow your business, whether it’s increasing profits, expanding your client base, or opening new locations, we’ve pared down the best advice from parenthood into seven tips to help you succeed.
1. Enjoy the moment
“Everything is temporary. Your kids will be babies, then toddlers, kids, teens, adults. They will never be small again,” says Michael. With a thriving company, the same is true. You’ll only be in the small business phase for a while. While it’s many an entrepreneur's dream to see their business grow and make a big impact, take time to smell the roses.
At the beginning stages of a business, you will likely be hands-on in the same way new parents are with babies. Take the time to know and enjoy all of the aspects of your business. As with a child growing into a teen, the business may require less of your intervention in the day to day. “There is beauty in each chapter,” says Michael.
✨ Tip: These early days will become a fond part of your brand story. Capture your humble beginnings in a social post or on a website about page to help your customers see the real person behind the brand.
2. Seek community
Anyone who’s ever taken parental leave will tell you that support groups and play groups are lifesavers for new parents. There is comfort in finding commonality with those going through similar ups and downs.
And, swapping advice with parents you trust cuts through the flood of information online. In fact, Michael founded Maple as a tool to help make parenting easier, including ways to connect.
Small business owners can experience feelings of isolation similar to new moms and dads. Seeking a community of other entrepreneurs, especially if you’re raising a company alone, can help you break out of your bubble, get inspired with new ideas, and learn from seasoned business owners.
You can find community online through entrepreneur groups on social platforms, virtual meetups, and even apps that are designed for networking. Opportunities to connect in person may also be available in your area—look for local events geared towards founders.
✨ Tip: While you build a supportive community around yourself, you can also build one around your brand. Turning customers into a social community helps your brand increase loyalty, leverage social reviews, and connect your fans with like-minded people.
3. Master prioritization
“Entrepreneurship is not 9-to-5, it's awake-sleep,” says Michael. “Just like parenting.” Parents become skilled at multitasking out of necessity, packing lunches and wrangling kids into school clothes while registering them for swimming lessons, somehow all at once. But multitasking has its downsides. Sure, you’re getting things done, but how well?
Parents know when to turn off multitasking when it matters, like when reading a bedtime story or sharing an important life lesson—things that fall outside of the to-do list but have a huge impact on the growth of their children.
An exercise of prioritizing the steps to reach your business growth goals will help you focus on what’s important. Think outside of a daily task list where it’s easy to rack up checkmarks and a false sense of accomplishment.
Prioritize what’s important based on working backwards from your ultimate measurable goal. If you find you’re just staying afloat or getting mired down in to-dos, your prioritization exercise will help you know what you can delegate and what needs your focus.
4. Be consistent — but know when to pivot
Parenting can be summed up as giving the same instruction — make your bed, stop bugging your sister, wash your hands — over and over until they fly from the nest. It’s a maddening part of raising kids, but consistency pays off.
Raising kids who understand what’s expected of them is a lot like growing an audience or customer base. Repeating your message and having a consistent, strong brand voice attracts the kind of customer or client who’s a perfect fit.
Sometimes kids just don’t respond to a certain parenting style, and parents know when it’s time to find a new strategy to motivate growing minds. Similarly, when you grow a brand, it’s important to know when something’s just not resonating. As you build your business, make your most loyal customers your allies. Find ways to seek feedback from them as your business grows.
✨ Tip: Establishing clear brand guidelines — including your vision and values — at the outset of building your business will help you remain consistent across your communication, even as you hire staff, expand, and outsource.
5. Learn from failure
Failure is a natural part of life and no two groups can attest more to that fact than parents and entrepreneurs. And, neither of them have much time to dwell on it. Great parents know that watching their kids fail is a hard thing—but that it sometimes provides a great opportunity to learn and build resilience.
“As your company grows, you find yourself needing to learn new skill sets to survive,” says Michael. “Parenting is exactly the same.” Failure can be motivating for a business owner if you learn to see every misstep as an opportunity to improve yourself. As you grow your business, you’ll rack up a “what not to do list” and build in plan Bs for every worst-case scenario.
6. Find balance
It’s natural to have a laser focus on the development of your children and completely ignore your own needs. Many parents fall into this trap, thinking it’s what’s best for their kids. But neglecting yourself by losing sleep or not taking time for your own interests can wear on your mental health, giving you less patience or clarity for the hard role of parenting.
Entrepreneurs, especially those building solo, often do the same, throwing 100% of their waking hours into growing their businesses. But you’ll find that you’ll be in a better position to take care of a child or a company if you also take care of yourself. Making space from your responsibilities to sleep, exercise, or even read a non-business book can give you more energy and new ideas. In both cases, modelling healthy balance can inspire those who look up to you—whether that’s kids or staff.
✨ Tip: Strengthening your self-awareness muscle will help you make better decisions that lead to a healthier work-life balance.
7. Wear every hat — with pride
Parents fill many roles in the lives of their children. They are all at once teachers and chauffeurs, first responders and dieticians, life coaches and soccer coaches. Becoming a parent forces you to learn many skills as well as the act of balancing them all.
When you first start your business, take the time to fill every role — even the ones that don’t come naturally to you. Eventually you will learn which aspects of your business are the best fit and which you should delegate.
You can also become a better leader as you grow your business because you’ll gain empathy and understanding for the people you hire. “My kids have taught me a lot about purpose, kindness, and patience,” says Michael. “I think this has all trickled into my ever-evolving leadership style.”
8. ...but know when to let go
Taking a hand off your kid’s bicycle seat as they learn to ride on two wheels or dropping them off on their first day of college are just two examples of when to let go in parenting.
It’s natural to want to protect your kids forever and to think that you’re the only one suited to do it. But letting go helps your kids learn valuable life skills—like balancing on a bike or living on their own—that will ultimately give them the tools to thrive and be independent.
Your business, in the early days, can feel one and the same with you as its founder. It sprung from you and has survived thanks to your care alone. But if your goal is to grow your business, you’ll need to learn to give up at least a little control.
As your business scales, you won’t be able to be everywhere at all times. Setting your business up to thrive means communicating your vision clearly, devoting care into hiring and growing a team, and knowing when to step aside to let that team bloom.