Moms and the Entrepreneurial Gene

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Sarah Perry, CEO of SnapComms (www.snapcomms.com)

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Starting a business is like deciding to have a baby. You can read all the books and do all the planning, but you really have NO idea what you are getting into until you are there.

And once you have made the leap, there is no going back.

Pregnancy is a bit like the early stages of planning your business. You are passionate, reading every book you can lay your hands on, and dreaming big.

Then… Wake up call!

With the birth comes the realization that no matter how many people hold your hand, it’s all on you to deliver.

A newborn. A new business. With either comes the inevitable teething problems that keep you awake in the middle of the night. And if your business has international customers, it’s a 24/7 operation, so expect calls at random times–and further sleep deprivation.

Baby begins to crawl, then walk. Business begins to grow. You hire a few employees. Suddenly, there are multiple variables at play, and things happen outside your control. Learning, discovery, and venturing into new territory (literally), can be exciting and fraught with worry at the same time. In many ways it’s the start of learning to “let go.”

These early steps require you to give encouragement and commitment. There are always a few trip-ups along the way, but determination is the only way forward.

Your child’s first day at school is like hiring your first official “manager.” You can coach and mentor, but you also have to trust and let go a little bit more.

Dealing with competitors, or the odd bully, is a time of self-discovery. Sometimes you just have to walk away – such as deciding not to enter a price war – and sometimes you stand and fight. The important part is knowing when to do which.

A few scraps build strength and character, but they hurt like heck at the time.

As a mother and a business owner, the challenges I faced in those early years are quite different to those now in the maturing years.

Today, I have one preteen and one new teenager. I also have a business that has been established for nearly 10 years and employs a staff that’s about 50 persons strong.

I trust my managers to do their jobs. I set direction and keep communication open. I also try my best to connect at appropriate times so they feel supported.

At any moment the wheels could come off temporarily; a child falls sick or a customer cancels a contract. But by now, I’ve got experience and resilience on my side.

And while I still don’t like it, I’ve become better at expecting the unexpected. And better at knowing when to join in or just listen.

I try not to underestimate how the little things make a big difference. So wellness initiatives for supporting healthy minds and bodies – such as keeping a well-stocked fridge, planning fun days out, and holding regular off-site pow-wows – are just as high-priority as meeting the deadline on a new product sprint.

Still, I have no doubt that we have our fair share of whining – both at home and in the office. Remaining “above the line,” accepting it’s not a perfect world and being accountable are things that all of us continue to work at. Looking to pass blame is not an option.

Some people say that children come through you and are not of you. The same applies to your business. Yes, I am a key influencer – in the business and in the home – but, it’s a delicate balance between independence and governance.

Force, ego, and control alone won’t work to make something a success—be it a business or a human being. You have to listen and know when it’s time to step back. You will be exceeded in some areas and that’s great. You don’t have to have all the answers.

This grand adventure of being a parent or an entrepreneur is what gives meaning to our lives. It’s the creating, coaching, mentoring, and, ultimately letting go that gives life its essence, colour, and purpose.

Moms and business founders share a common gene insofar as shaping a life is, at heart, an entrepreneurial endeavor. It’s a glorious journey.

—Sarah Perry is CEO of SnapComms (www.snapcomms.com), an award-winning company that develops employee communications software that bypasses e-mail to put important messages in front of employees on any device, anywhere. It has more than 1.3 million paid enterprise users in more than 50 countries.

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