February 1, 2012

5 Ways Having a Business is Like Having a Kid

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meredith @ 11:04 am

Anyone who knows me personally will see the humor in me writing this post. For those that don’t, I do not have kids or any interest in having them, but I see so many common threads with parenting and entrepreneurship, I thought this post might be something my readers would relate to — whether you’ve got kids or not :)

1. No two are the same
This is a really important thing to understand about businesses (and raising kids I imagine). What works for one is not going to work for another. There are some basics that we can all agree on — keep your books in order, have a marketing plan, etc. (Or in the case of your kids, don’t beat them with a broom handle or feed them candy all day.) But there are so many specifics that are great rules for one business and not for another.

One of my best friends owns a successful apparel company and relies on search marketing and SEO for the bulk of her sales. My partner and I also own an apparel business but rely much more on events and wholesale. We definitely make money on SEO and search marketing but it’s not our #1 source of sales. Even within the same industry, what works for one business doesn’t always work for another.

Takeaway: It’s good to talk to other people about what works for them in their business, but don’t assume their practices are going to work for you. Always test everything, your business is constantly evolving and so is the consumer market. The rules that worked a year ago or for another business won’t necessarily be best for you.

2. You hang around other people who have them and can become a bore to people who don”t
Since my partner and I don’t have kids, we’ve lost touch with friends who do. We lost friends we’d known for over a decade because once their kids entered the picture the kids became the focus of their lives. I totally get it; discussing gluten allergies and the like is super-interesting when it’s your child — but to people without kids that kind of thing gets boring. So if you want to have a 2-hour conversation about your kid’s food allergies you’ll probably have more luck with that if you hang around other people with kids.

I can be the same sort of boring about running a business. It’s such a huge part of my life that it seems to come up a lot. I know my non-business owning friends couldn’t care less about SEO and inventory tracking so I try to control myself, but sometimes I can be pretty damn boring. All bets are off when I get together with my friends who actually OWN businesses. You’ve never seen such nerdy drunks. Case in point: a couple of weeks ago we got hammered and talked about affiliate fraud for over an hour — then it was on to taxes and managing staff.

Takeaway: If you want to keep your non-entrepreneur friends, try not to talk their ears off about work. Make sure you have some business-owner friends you can do that with instead.

3.  It’s more difficult if you don’t have enough money
Raising a kid isn’t cheap; it will probably cost you over $200,000.00 from birth to college graduation. Beyond just feeding and clothing them, your kids will probably need an endless number of extras like ballet lessons, soccer cleats, braces, tutoring, etc. If you can, you try to invest in those extras to make them the best they can be. If you’re scraping by on a tight budget, just covering the basics is difficult.

A business is no different; it needs all kinds of things that cost a fortune. You’ll be shelling out for office space, software, advertising, trade shows, manufacturing, staff, etc. As the company grows the expenses grow too. If things go well, the income outpaces the costs more and more every year, but the costs are always going to be there and when you start up they will probably exceed the income, in most cases for the first couple of years.

Takeaway: Launching a business requires planning and funding. If you try to operate without enough capital you’re going to struggle and miss out on important opportunities that could help you grow to your full potential. Before you go into business, look at the various costs associated with starting up and have a plan for how you’ll pay for all those expenses.

4.  You find yourself doing things you never thought you would
Last year we had some production issues with our print shop and decided we needed to proof all the pieces that were going out for a huge order. We spent hours inspecting, counting and folding t-shirts. I thought to myself “Yep, this is a good use of my fancy college education that cost over $100,000.00″.  We did it because our company is our baby and we want everything to be perfect and we can’t always 100% trust the people we hire to care like we do. So if we want everything to be perfect, sometimes we have to take on some pretty crappy tasks. I think of these things as the equivalent of staying up all night to help your child build a model volcano for a class science project. It’s far from what I want to be doing, but sometimes it has to be done and I’m the only one that’s going to help them do it properly.

Takeaway: Owning a business isn’t that glamorous. You’ll probably have to roll up your sleeves and do some work you’d rather not be doing. You have to be the kind of person who’s willing to take on any kind of task, no matter how unsavory, in order to reach your goals.

5. It’s so worth it
My partner and I think of the phrase “It’s so worth it” as parent bingo. It’s attached to the end of every story that starts along the lines of “Geez, I am so tired today. I got no sleep last night because the baby had a fever and threw up all over my hair.” Those stories always end with “but it’s so worth it.”

My business often keeps me up all night and barfs in my hair, at least figuratively speaking. And while it doesn’t hug me and tell me it loves me, it does other cool stuff that makes it “so worth it.”  When I see our products flying off the shelves at an event or in our wholesale customers’ stores, I get excited. It’s satisfying to know we brought something into the world that people love. It’s great seeing our products in TV, magazines and other media and knowing that millions of people are seeing this thing we created. Every time our business has the equivalent of a toddler’s epic stomach flu it sucks, but the plus column always has more in it than the minus column.

Takeaway: Crap is going to happen and it’s not going to be fun. If you’re running a business you love you’ve got to accept the bad days along with all the great ones. If you do your job well, there will probably be more good days than bad.

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