One of the most interesting challenges for me in my dual roles as parent and small businessperson has been figuring out how exactly to balance those two things. How can I be a good parent to my children and still manage to keep a successful small business running?
Both of these things require a lot of attention, time and care. For me, the challenge is that many of my small business needs come with more urgency than my parenting needs. My customers and contractors complain a lot louder than my children ever do and, as the old maxim goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
That's not the person I want to be, though. Instead, I've sought other methods for handling that balance between family and business that allow me to focus on my family when they need me (and even when they don't) while also paying attention to my customers.
Customer service happens around the clock, while parenting doesn't. My family needs me during the evening hours, so I simply turn off the smartphone and focus strictly on them from an hour or two before dinner until their bedtime. At that time, I turn the smartphone back on and deal with any critical customer issues at that time. Demands on Facebook can wait -- a child who really wants his father to read him a bedtime story will someday grow up and will intuitively remember whether their parent had time and love to take care of things like that.
Children of all ages can surprisingly be involved in the business. My non-infant children are five and three, yet I constantly am finding ways for them to help out with work projects. They help me set up photographs. They sometimes serve as models for various things. They help me with brainstorming -- their minds are so unencumbered with restrictions that they sometimes toss things out there that would have never occurred to me. Through this, some of my work tasks become family time, a project that we can work on together and deeply enjoy together. I constantly look for opportunities to bring them into the loop on whatever I'm working on.
Apprenticeship, anyone? I'm already serving as a mentor for several younger entrepreneurs who hope to engage in some of the endeavors that I'm involved with. As my children grow older, I will most certainly be there for them to guide them in the same way.
Mentorship is invaluable because of the dual nature of the personal and the professional bond that it can build. Both people grow as a result of it and, often, you forge a relationship that will last.
I'm already encouraging the entrepreneurial nature of my children and, as soon as they possibly can, I intend to channel that nature into my own endeavors. I hope to set them each up with their own projects that they can spin off in any direction that they choose, building a lasting foundation of skills and, hopefully, a business that will last, too, and help support them in whatever path they choose.
Most importantly, it gives me a chance to not only build another potential relationship for my business, but also build a deeper relationship with my own children as they push on towards adulthood.
That's the kind of small business investment that really matters.
Photo courtesy of prayitno.