Being a Mum is all about on-the-job training. There are no GCSEs, A levels or degrees that qualify you to be the perfect parent. The hours are long and unregulated. You cannot resign, take a holiday or go off sick. But, although there is no pay, none of us would swap motherhood for all the money in the world!
You learn a lot from being a Mum: from the baby days when leaving the house is like mobilising an army; to learning the negotiating skills of a UN peacekeeper during sibling fights; to the Machiavellian art of ensuring reading, homework, spellings and times table practice are done without international meltdown!
Unsurprisingly these skills translate well into the business world. So if you’re thinking of starting a business, here are the top five skills you’ve already learned that will help you make it a success:
1. Planning: as a mother this is a given – sometimes just getting out of the house takes planning! When starting a business it is equally vital. From the initial business plan to the day-to-day organisation, if you’re going to make your business a success you will need to spend time planning. If you need to raise capital or borrow money, you will definitely need a formal business plan to show to investors/the bank. Even if you don’t need to borrow money then it is still wise to draw up a business plan. This will ensure that you have a firm business idea that is workable, and has a plan going forward of how to build it into a success. A business plan will help you set goals for your business, measure how well you’re doing and make sure you’re working on what is important to the success of your business.
2. Networking: When I had my first baby, I knew no one locally. If I wasn’t going to go stark raving mad I had to get out there and make some friends. Having a new baby inevitably makes you step outside your comfort zone and forge new friendships – networking is something you can do already! When starting a new business, networking is vital:
“Networking isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” – Kate White, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan 1998 to 2012.
Use every opportunity that you can and remember to listen, listen and listen some more! You never know where an opportunity may take you and your business, so don’t forget to follow up any new contacts or leads that you get, and act on any information you are given. From formal networking in Mum’s networking sessions, or those run by your local chamber of commerce; to informal networking at the school gate or at the bus stop; take every opportunity to make your business a success.
3. Don’t Be Shy: once you’ve given birth, breast fed in a public place, or come last in the Mum’s race at the school sports day, I reckon that whatever level of shyness you may have previously endured, it will have evaporated! When starting a business it can literally pay not to be shy: ask your suppliers for discounts/faster delivery/better credit terms; ask for the business from a potential new customer; ask your customers to pay more for your great service/speedy delivery/improved product. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
4. Go the extra mile: if you’ve ever had to make an Egyptian costume for your child at the last minute, or magically create a cake for the school party from a bare fridge you’ll already know how to go the extra mile. In your new business you will need to go the extra mile for your customers. How can your product/service be better than your competitors? What extra special thing can your business do that makes you better than all the rest? If you can do what your competitors don’t do, then your business will have a better chance of success.
If your business can go the extra mile, you will beat your competitors.
5. A Good Coat is a Saviour: a little tongue in cheek and not technically a business skill in itself, but every mother knows the importance of a good coat! There is a coat out there that will take you from being School-Run Mum to Mum-in-Business and back again, all without you getting wet or cold! Whilst unloved tops or trousers can be left at the back of the wardrobe, a coat has to be worn daily – it’s an important purchase. Choose wisely and invest in a good quality, hard wearing, smart coat and it will have the power to smarten up an otherwise unexceptional outfit, make the transition from mother to business woman seamless, and most importantly – cover up any baby sick/dribble marks that have inadvertently made their way onto your shoulder before you left the house!
Skills learned from parenting can make you perfectly placed to start your own business. Use these skills to your advantage and start your own business with confidence.