Years ago in another life, I used to teach a parenting course and lately I am finding that the lessons I learned and taught in that program have some relevance to what I see today, and especially in running a business.
For example, one of the questions we would ask the women was to reflect back on their childhood and share their favourite memory. Without fail, the answer was the same -- time spent alone with one parent. That one-on-one time was special and you got your parent's undivided attention.
So when I look at business strategies, I recall an entrepreneur once sharing that she'd had her best year ever because she decided to actually visit all her customers and talk to them face-to-face.
Now this meant a lot of travelling, but it paid off because her very presence in front of her clients meant that she was able to solidify that relationship and it showed she cared. Through her discussions, she was also able to identify new opportunities and it opened doors for her that otherwise would likely not have happened.
Another aspect of parenting that we examined closely was realistic expectations and we would quiz the parents on when they thought their child should be able to undertake certain activities like dressing themselves, or more revealing, knowing the difference between right or wrong.
Invariably the parents would come up with answers based on either their oldest child or another child in the immediate family, which meant that their expectations weren't too accurate or founded on any real facts. The problem with unrealistic expectations is the child doesn't question them, after all we're the adults, so we should know, right?
Similarly I have noticed that people join networking organizations expecting immediate results. They will attend a meeting and expect to walk away with business. Or in the case of WEConnect Canada, an organization that links women to corporations that have supplier diversity programs, they will receive big orders straight away. Unfortunately, that isn't how it works. It takes time.
It's all about showing up -- actually attending meetings on a regular basis and building relationships with the other people there. And with the large corporations, it can take several years, so it is important that small business owners don't just sit back and wait for it to happen. You have to be proactive and get yourself prepared for when that face-to-face meeting happens, because you will only have a short time in which to convey that you are ready and able to deliver.
The last component of the parenting program that is resonating for me right now is that basically children want to feel they are lovable and worthwhile, which really rings true for adults too. Much of our course, which was on self esteem, looked at the esteem of the mothers, and I remember when we asked women to share a proud moment in their lives (apart from having their children), it was very telling when one woman shared an event that had happened ten years prior.
Now that's sad, and as I interview women for a book we're writing about not feeling good enough, I can see for many women not much has changed. In fact, if anything, their parenting is either something they feel they excel at or they don't measure up to at all. There's no gray area. We are always comparing ourselves to others, and falling short.
So in business if we don't believe in ourselves, how can we ask others to have faith in what we are offering, be it a product or service? Just like that mother whose proudest moment was way in the past, we need to move on, let go and look forward, because then we have a future, one where we can become who we are meant to be.
And in case you are wondering, children have a moral compass to tell right from wrong around age seven.