Here’s a wonderful guest blog post from Adelaide Lancaster, co-owner of In Good Company workplaces. She and her business partner Amy Abrams are also co-authors of the new book The Big Enough Company. You can meet Adelaide and Amy when they join me and Danielle Smith (my co-author on the book Mom, Incorporated) on Oct 4, 2011 in New York City. Find out more here.
Here’s Adelaide’s official bio:
Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, speaker and co-author of The Big Enough Company: Creating a business that works for you (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is a contributor to The Huffington Post, and a columnist for The Daily Muse and The Hired Guns. She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband and daughter.
And here’s her post where she explores some core lessons she has learned from being both mom and entrepreneur.
I think that moms make excellent entrepreneurs. I also think the reverse is true. After spending the last year navigating these two roles simultaneously, I’ve been surprised at how many of the core lessons overlap. It occurred to me that most of the things that make for a successful experience as an entrepreneur are also the things that make for a successful experience as a mom.
In my case, I was an entrepreneur for seven years before I was a mother. And although I still consider myself a new mom, I felt more prepared (in some ways) for the tremendous journey of motherhood because of what I’ve learned running my own business. I’ve heard lots of experienced mom entrepreneurs talk about the secrets of their success before. Some point to the ingenuity, creativity, and resilience, while others highlight their keen multi-tasking and prioritization skills. I agree these have come in handy, but for me it was four different lessons that resonated most strongly.
Lesson 1: Get comfortable with “good enough”
Entrepreneurs often find themselves battling impossible and unrealistic standards. Moms do too. Entrepreneurs contend with overnight success legends – small wonders who “hit it big”, while moms constantly battle all sorts of mythological creatures from Mrs. Brady to the modern-day super woman who can (wince) “do it all.” What’s more, neither moms nor entrepreneurs have jobs that are ever done. There is always more that you can do. More that you can give.
As an entrepreneur, I had to learn to embrace my limits and limitations despite and in spite of an endless number of tasks. Once I realized that I couldn’t “do it all” I gave up trying. Instead I focused on doing what was important, as defined by my priorities and goals.
As a result, I was more successful. This proved to be quite a valuable motherhood lesson. Tempted to be fully-equipped, fully-prepared, and over-scheduled with enrichment opportunities, I recognized early on the negative impact that doing too much was having on the experience. It turns out that one recommended parenting book is enough, that fewer toys encourage creativity, and less gear makes life simpler. Once I forgot about everything that “should” be done, I was actually able to do a lot well and enjoy myself.
Lesson 2: Accept that progress happens on its own time
Businesses grow and develop at different rates, same as children. Some startups take longer to get out of the gate, while others explode overnight. This causes a lot of angst about what “should be” happening. Many entrepreneurs battle to speed things up, proclaiming, “look at how much we’ve done!” While other entrepreneurs feel badly that they haven’t yet reach particular milestones. However, experience shows us that most businesses get there at some point and what matters is positive progression, not the rate of development.
Instead of comparing against businesses “born” around the same time, I learned to appreciate the uniqueness of my business, its goals, and its own path of achievement. Again, this was a very helpful experience to have in my arsenal as a new mom. It made me less anxious when my baby was slow to roll over and also less boastful when she was quick to crawl. I understood the futility of comparison and the importance the freedom for her to figure things out in her own time.
Lesson 3: Be honest
Entrepreneurs often feel obliged to paint a very rosy picture. Worried about displaying any hints of doubt, uncertainty or incompetence, we tend to spin things all the time. “Business has never been better!” “We are right on plan.” But the truth is that being an entrepreneur is all about embracing the uncertainty, reveling in the unknown, and constantly recalibrating as you go along. But in order to do this successfully you need feedback and input from others, which you will only get by being honest. No one will give you suggestions if you are already claiming that everything is great.
Instead you need to give an accurate assessment. “Here’s what we are doing well, but this is what I don’t quite understand.” The same is true for the experience of motherhood. You won’t get anywhere by pretending it is all roses. Hard days get mixed right in with the blissful ones. And you only get the support (and answers) you need by sharing the truth about what is going on. What’s even more important is realizing that being honest doesn’t lesson your (perceived) commitment. I love being an entrepreneur even when I feel stuck. I love being a mom even when I’m tired, frustrated, or at a loss for what to do.
Lesson 4: Understand the value of self-awareness
Both entrepreneurship and motherhood bring with them an onslaught of unsolicited advice and strong opinions about how to do it “right”. But what most entrepreneurs and moms quickly learn is that there is no such thing as one-size fits all. Trying to follow what others think you “should do” is a recipe for dissatisfaction both at home and at work. I learned that I would only be able to create a business that delivered the rewards I wanted if I was very clear about what kind of entrepreneur I want to be. Because of that, I’ve been able to strive for my own definition of success and eschew well-meaning but ill-fitting advice that I’ve received along the way.
My experience doing this as an entrepreneur encouraged me to give a lot of thought to what kind of mother I want to be and what kind of family environment I want to cultivate. I knew that the more aware I was of what I wanted, the better choices I’d be able to make. There’s nothing better than to be able to comfortably and confidently say, as an entrepreneur or mom, “this is what works for me.”
How is being an entrepreneur - and mom - informing your life?