After many years of running marketing for technology start-ups and some of the largest companies in India, I decided to take a break and raise my kids instead.
Who’d have thought that start-ups and kids have so much in common. I may not have believed it a few years ago but now it all seems too true. You often hear business ideas, start-ups being referred to as ‘my baby’ well who is to say my babies are not a start-up in themselves.
Consider this, with both in the early days you have no idea how they will work but you have this uncontrollable itch to have a go! I MUST make this idea happen; I MUST have this baby!
Over time you realize you have bitten more than you can chew (metaphorically speaking of course) but you must see this to closure – preferably with a darn good exit strategy. You also hope it leaves you with enough wealth to cover your old age.
#1 Your days just became 26 hours – Ah you think, I’m willing to put in 10 hours a day, that should do to get the idea / baby off the ground. Turns out its not 10, its 26 hours a day, you haven’t slept, eaten or drunk in days and that’s just the beginning.
#2 They remind us of what big failures we are – you can be out drinking, eating, watching television or even having a regular grown-up conversation. Suddenly you will be running to the room, did I respond to this email? When was the deadline on this RFI, my business is a failure! Oh my god, the baby is crying, I can’t tell why she’s crying, what kind of parent am I, I am a failure!
#3 24/7 – In my previous jobs I remember travelling from India to the US and technically gaining a day but I’d get on the flight working on the Budgets and creatives and get off filling in the RoI details. If you are running a start-up, you are available every minute of every day to get your idea off the ground and getting those first deals. Raising a child is exactly like that, when they are awake, they are chewing on dirty socks that only your 10-month-old can find. When they sleep the teethers, bottles, clothes, bath toys are all waiting to be washed and sterilized ready to be chewed to death only for your baby to go and find said dirty socks yet again. You have to keep your eyes OPEN 24/7!
#4 Networking – You are never a better networker in your life than before or after starting a business or having a baby. The groups, communities and mentors you seek out and voluntarily join is unprecedented at any other time in your life. Your start-up networks are support groups that remind you ‘you aren’t alone’ parent groups are amazing like that too ‘you aren’t alone, we let our kid eat chips and have cola for lunch too’.
#5 Rounding up the resources – Ah but I have this great idea, very soon you figure out that’s not enough! You need money, you need people, you need space. Sometimes the money goes to learning and training, other times you got to move it to the entertainment quadrant. Your personnel need food resources too and they aren’t always happy with what you provide, then you accommodate special requests for morale! Chocolate cake and pizza are favorites with your employees and children! Win – win!
#6 Pivot, Pivot, Pivot – No matter how much you deliberated and took a decision or made a choice it isn’t always right so its important to fail fast and PIVOT! Oh my gawd! That kinetic sand was a Baaaad idea, pivot, pivot, let’s move to rainbow rice, atleast I can Dyson that! Is that tiny legos in the baby’s hands, what were you thinking? Look, look he’s put a piece in his mouth, GET. IT. OUT!
#7 I Lead and I plead – As they grow both your start-up and children need different things from you. Your role is constantly changing so you need to tap into different strengths of yourself. Sometimes you play the lead, barking out orders and doling out the strategy. Other times you are pleading for someone to buy into what you are selling! ‘I got you the bunk bed so you guys can sleep away from my bed.’ ‘Next year Ma, Promise!’
#8 ‘Celebrate the small wins’ culture – What kind of company you want and family you are raising both boil down to one thing – culture. What’s top priority, what do we value? Does the journey matter as much as the destination? What do we reward or recognize? We got listed ‘companies to watch for’ YAY! Partaaay! ‘Hey Mom, Its Friday!’ YAY! Partaaay!
#9 Listen to your market – At a start-up I worked with, we built and made some amazing features for this product we were building only to realize the client couldn’t use half those features in their community. While we built we obviously hadn’t listened. I find the same holds true with my kids – unless I’m listening to their personalities and building my parenting for them I’m basically wasting time. Hey Mom, listen to this. ‘Let’s have Peenut butter! Get it Pee – nut?’ Out goes ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ In comes Harry Potter. ‘Hey mom, Dudley is Fat and obnoxious!’ Ok no reading for a while kiddo!
#10 The customer is your worst critic and your biggest advocate – First thing one morning I had a hard call with one of our client relationship managers, one of the features we had proposed wasn’t working well, it was breaking the loop and making our client look bad, we fixed it by evening there was a long glowing mail from the customer about how cool this feature was. My kids take their lessons from some of the toughest customers I’ve come across. ‘Hey amma, do I have to do everything around here?’ Because he was asked to put his shorts in the laundry basket instead of the floor. ‘Amma, I love you! you are best!’ because I made a tepid chocolate cake. Sound familiar?
I may have dropped out of corporate but looks like the lessons are going to last a while longer.