I was pregnant with my second daughter when I started my first business. And boy did I fall into it. New to being a parent—I was also new to managing my own business. Balancing both was a struggle. And while there are similarities—lessons, difficulties and triumphs—business and motherhood responsibilities seemed to collide some days.
Learning through Living: Key Takeaways
Early on, managing my own business was pretty easy. I was literally just responsible for myself. I was a one woman show, consulting for small tech companies that needed general marketing support—pretty straight-forward. I had always thought of myself as a pretty good listener, so I honed in on that skill. I learned from my days at Hilton Worldwide that the customer is always right. So I really tried to listen carefully to the needs of my customers while steering them to make the right choices.
But after becoming a mother, I started to change the way I approached business. There were many valuable lessons I learned, with four that really stand out.
Key Takeaway #1: Clients, like children, don’t always know what’s ‘right’ for them. Sometimes marketing agencies and moms do know what’s right for them—and we need to speak up. While we want our clients and children to learn, it’s our responsibility to step in if things are going the wrong way.
As time passed, my client list grew and so did my family. I found myself in a new marketing partnership, new company, much bigger clients, and having to manage more than just myself. As both business and family responsibilities began to grow, I learned to wear a lot of hats—focusing short amounts of time on one thing, and then moving to the next. That’s where my next takeaway comes in to play.
Key Takeaway #2: Growth adds more demands to your load, whether it is the laundry load or work load. Learning to be hyper effective as a parent and business owner is critical. Focus and the ability to adapt are the key contributing factors to success during these demanding times.
During this stage of my career and my life—I took on too much. It was easy to do because I had the flexibility to work from home. More often than not I found myself saying YES to everything my school or church community asked for. From classrooms visits on Dr. Seuss day, to joining the PTO Board—I was stuck trying to juggle life along with managing our agency’s largest and fastest growing global account. And I never said NO.
I think all moms reading this can predict the ending—my family suffered. On the contrary, my account did fantastic, the client was overjoyed, and our bank account was full. Me not so much. I found myself having more and more breakdowns, which was unfair to my husband and children (who were quite young).
Then suddenly—I found myself pregnant with number three, another girl. During this time, I wanted more than anything to put everything on hold and be a stay at home mom, similar to what I did with my first daughter. So I did just that. I shut down for three months, let the team manage the monster account and I took a break. No phone, no computer and very little talk about work at home (I forgot to mention my husband and work together). It was the break I needed.
Soon after I jumped right back into work for another year, same pace but now with an infant. It was tough, I guess I hadn’t learned. When the project ended, I mourned the loss of the account. It was a high in my career—being part of a high performing team was absolutely rewarding. My next account wasn’t as demanding, so I set strict boundaries from the start. Which brings me to the next takeaway.
Takeaway #3: Set boundaries and do your best to stick to them. As a parent and professional—this is hard to do. But when it is done out of love and care, it works. Explaining boundaries upfront is key to making them stick. Remember to reinforce them regularly, refer to them and communicate them clearly.
Where I Am Today
After relaunching our agency over 18 months ago, I’m finally seeing the benefits of being a mom and a business owner. I still have flexibility, often bringing one of my daughter’s to work with me. I now have a different set of responsibilities. While I still manage accounts, I know my limits, and I’m getting better at saying no.
I’m very involved with our agency’s growth, both with sales and our employees. I find managing a team very tough and I often pull from my job as a mom to help be an effective manager and communicator. This leads me to my final takeaway—use what you got.
Takeaway #4: If your experience comes from being a mom, use it! Practice makes perfect. So if you practice listening and being patient with your children at home, do the same thing in the office with your colleagues. If you take the time to show your four-year old how to build a puzzle, do the same thing for your team by helping them develop good presentations, campaigns and content. Take the time to help both sides grow—and practice patience.
Finally, remember to have fun. Go sledding with your kids, swim in the ocean with them and do the same with your employees. Go to happy hour instead of rushing home—and plan fun team activities. Those are the moments we will most remember.
Disclosure: while these lessons have been learned over and over again—applying what I have learned at home and in the office is the hard part!