Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Throughout most of our job-seeking lives, we are required to demonstrate our skills as a precursor to employment. Our resumes list our previous companies and associated roles as evidence of our experience. Job interviews consist of recalling examples when we demonstrated our capabilities—everything must have been recorded in measurable successes, lest we have no “proof” of our accomplishments.
So, when we decide to go it alone and launch a new entrepreneurial project, we can often find ourselves wondering if we are out of our depth—without proof of the ability to succeed outside of the structure of our deeds within another company, it is easy to doubt ourselves. We’ve been trained to be skeptical of any proposed capability that isn’t measured by our resume.
But for the parents out there, some of the skills that aren’t measurable by traditional standards are the most important skills of all.
The most important job of all
As we raise our children, a lot of what we do becomes second nature. We don’t see the hundreds of micro-tasks, the negotiations, the learn-on-the-job moments as transferable skills that could benefit us in the business world.
When I found out I was going to become a father at 22-years-old, I saw my future goals and ambitions disappearing before my eyes. I thought that the professional milestones I had set for myself would never be realized, and I knew my future was going to change forever. I believed that my dreams of entrepreneurship and days of professional risk-taking were gone before they had even started.
But something I wish I could have told my younger self is that being a parent would prepare me to become a better entrepreneur than any other role I could have found myself in. Over the years that I have been raising my two children and scaling my own HealthTech company, I’ve been able to draw several parallels between the worlds of child-rearing and business.
Clients and car seats
Any parent will know that buckling your child into a car seat is an art. You simply cannot force them to get into that seat, not even with bribes and distractions. What I soon learned is that the dreaded car seat song and dance miraculously becomes a breeze when you are going to your child’s favorite store. And the lesson here is that this is not a one-sided deal— it’s a negotiation that provides the client—in this case, a child—with motivation to go with the flow, noting that the end game, from their perspective, is their visitation of a place they enjoy.
This realization made me a better businessman. Before I launched my own company, I was a sales representative. I worked tirelessly to build up the customer pipeline and increase my client base, but I learned very quickly that if you try to strongarm a client, you will lose every time. One of my favorite quotes is from entrepreneur, Mark Cuban: “Selling is never about convincing, it is always about helping.” Once the customer can ignore that you’re a salesperson and start seeing you as a partner who is trying to help them, they’ll practically buckle themselves in for the ride.
Lawyers and diapers
When you’re a new parent, one of the most daunting jobs is changing a diaper. It will soon become second nature, but you’ll always remember the first time you did it, and that’s usually because you had no idea of what you were doing, and the consequences of fumbling the job seemed scary. When my son arrived, I had dozens of nurses offering me different strategies and advice, but there were two consistent factors for a successful diaper change: size mattered, and I needed a diaper I could trust.
Similarly, when I started my business, I had no idea how crucial a good legal team was. But as my company matured, I learned that it’s not just about having a legal team, but one that is the perfect fit for the size of an organization. If you hire a huge law firm and you are a small business, you’re unlikely to be a priority. If you hire a single person, they might not be able to handle the demands of a rapidly-growing startup. However, if you find a legal team that is the perfect size for your company, you will be able to rely on them for anything. When it’s time to clean up a legal mess, having a team you can count on is essential.
The sale and the sleepover
One of the greatest joys my children have is staying at their grandparents’ house for a sleepover, where they admittedly get spoiled. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into getting them there, as we pack their clothes, milk bottles, and stuffed animals to ensure that everyone has a successful overnight stay. The grandparents are delighted to see the kids, the kids are excited about the sleepover, and the parents can enjoy one night off from their normal duties—it’s a win-win-win.
The process of business acquisition is very similar. While I have yet to go through an acquisition first-hand, I saw the results of my grandfather’s successful acquisition, as well as those of other close friends. The way those acquisitions have been described to me is that they take a huge amount of preparation but the result feels like the weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders. The acquisition is not always a permanent goodbye, but it’s an accomplishment that allows more freedom.
Not everyone becomes a parent when they think they will, as the timeline of our lives is often determined by external factors that are out of our control. However, the parents who are thinking that their years of raising children have prevented them from learning entrepreneurial skills might just find themselves to be the people best-suited for the job.