Messy Entrepreneurship

Years ago, I remember watching with great interest when my then-2½ year-old grandson and his then-11-month-old sister explored their relatively new lives. Building an entrepreneurial business is a lot like raising a child. There is a tremendous amount of nurturing required. Let us look at the parallels.

My grandson was prone to tantrums which come with the territory during the terrible twos. Usually this happened because he was frustrated or did not get his way. In a growing business we can feel extreme frustration when things do not go our way. We may tend to take out our frustration on others in the form of an adult tantrum – possibly we say or do things that are less than kind. I also noticed what happened when baby sister picked up one of his toys. Now, this may have been a toy that he had not touched for weeks, but if she latched onto it, he suddenly wanted and needed it right then and there. He would push her, and she would push him back – and trust me, she was a strong little cuss! In our entrepreneurial endeavors we may regularly experience conflict with others who see things differently. As with children it sometimes seems like all we do is attempt to resolve such conflicts.

Do you want to talk about hyperactivity? I am an expert on this subject. When you look up the word in the dictionary, my grandson’s picture is there. He and his sister have both been afflicted with this tendency all their lives. They are all over the place all the time. When he was younger, he would put together a couple pieces of a puzzle, then zip over and ride his tricycle, then run upstairs and bang on his drum set (a hand-me-down from his older cousin who received it from yours truly – kind of a Karma thing). Baby sister was motoring around and climbing on everything during every single waking moment. Think about the entrepreneurial environment. It is hectic. The pace is frenetic, and we are constantly putting out fires and incubating new ideas – all at the same time. The downside of course, can be a lack of focus and a failure to complete tasks and projects.

Kids make ginormous messes. When I visit at my daughter’s house, I am always struck by all the “stuff” that is strewn about even though they are no longer toddlers. At our home I watch these kids drag things out of the toy box and leave them in their wake as they move on to the next “thing.” Fortunately, we have fewer “stuff” items at our home, but there is no question that the little munchkins can pull everything out and cover the floor in a matter of seconds. And when it comes to eating, that is a whole other story. There is no other way to put it – it looks like a daily occurrence of an Animal House food fight. There’s oatmeal on the floor, eggs on the walls and cheese stuck to the ceiling! Our businesses may look the same way. Building an entrepreneurial organization is a messy proposition. Things break. The prototype product we created is not the sleek game-changer we had anticipated. Systems and processes are half-completed and sometimes customers are less than pleased.

For all the trials and tribulations of raising children, there are many rewarding moments. Watching my grandson take his first few steps and become more confident every day thereafter was pretty cool. Listening to a 2½ year-old sing the “ABC Song” perfectly was a proud moment. Seeing the smiles and hearing them lovingly call me “Poppa” melts my heart. I guess it is true what they say about grandkids being the reward we receive for not killing our children. Likewise, our hearts sing when things come together, and we take three steps forward as entrepreneurs. Oh sure, there will be two-step-backward days as well, but the net effect is positive. How do we make sure that the rewards are always there? Like parents, we remain committed to building our business just like we are committed to raising our kids. We learn how to be patient. We learn how to be positive. And we learn how to celebrate the victories along the way.

When we grow an entrepreneurial business, we know there is going to be oatmeal on the floor. But if we are committed, patient, positive and celebrate success, eventually our baby will grow up and make us very proud.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.