Marie runs Beyond the Kitchen Table, which helps small business owners build a successful online business, primarily through building websites and teaching them how to plan and write their website content. Before setting up Beyond the Kitchen Table she had a successful career in finance. She has two children, loves a glass or two of red wine and likes to think about going to the gym. Find her on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.
It’s that time of the year again: time to shine those shoes, sew those name tags in and find that PE kit. Yes, it’s September and back to school. Do you bawl your eyes out as your little ones head to the school gate and mourn the decreasing number of summers you have with them as children or skip out of the gates shouting, “Yes, yes, yes!” seeking out the nearest coffee shop or wine bar to celebrate the survival of the past 6 weeks?
Whichever you are, this isn’t another blog about the joys, or despair, of children returning to school. This is about you as business owners and entrepreneurs and, believe it or not, what we can all learn from our children as they start school – the two really aren’t that different.
Just as friendships are vitally important at school and your children learn who they like and who they don’t like, who supports them (and who doesn’t), who’s their BFF, who makes them laugh and who will help with their homework (again), you too must do the same on your business journey. Find people who understand what you are trying to achieve, who can help you, who will empathise and pick you up when something doesn’t go to plan but then celebrate your successes as well. Call them a network, call them a support group, your tribe, your gang – call them whatever works for you, but every business owner needs them.
Mentors / coaches
Children learn at school in a class room, with desks, chairs, windows, and if you’re lucky an air of calm, now and again. The teachers impart information which will help them understand the likes of ratios (helpful when making mummy a gin and tonic), the fat content of crisps (which they will then happily share with you as they catch you scoffing a bag of kettle chips) and why exercise is so important to our well-being (the nagging you’ll receive when they want to go to the park but you’re happy on the sofa catching up on “Big Little Lies”).
Owning a business, in complete contrast, is, to use the cliché, a veritable roller coaster. Just when you think you’re on the flat, another bend, dip or peak comes along and you’re back to feeling sick and screaming, “When will this end?! I want to get off!” And that doesn’t take into account everything else you’re trying to juggle! Amidst the chaos, you need clarity and that’s when we sometimes need to take advice.
Will you struggle on alone or reach out to those that can guide you in the right direction?
We need mentors, coaches and people more experienced than us to help us step on to the roller coaster and then hold our hand on the way. People who can teach us resilience, new skills and those new things that didn’t exist when we were at school (like how to get our business found on Google). We must never stop learning and finding great teachers.
This sounds simpler than it is. Children start school aged four and they are just themselves – they say what they want and behave how they want (pretty much!).
Secondary school age children are much more aware of changing their behaviour and perhaps even tweaking their personality to ‘fit in’ with a particular crowd – you remember those days of wearing the right clothes, liking the ‘right’ boys, saying you liked The Cure when really you had a New Kids on the Block CD Walkman (this ages us, right?!) – ready in your bag for the walk home. And it’s this feeling which hangs around our shoulders like a bad ‘90s haircut as we embark on entrepreneurship.
But, we must cast aside that desire to copy everyone else, those memories of peer pressure, stay strong and be ourselves!
People buy from people as they say. We build websites but we’re a bit different to other businesses that build websites. We’re not your 20 something year old geeks who talk a different language and build techy clever websites. We are the other side of 40, understand what it is like trying to build a business when you have family responsibilities and build websites for our clients that are “right” for them and their businesses and which they can update themselves. We show this on our website and in all our marketing – it is our “brand”. We do well because we are different rather than try to compete head on.
My tip is to be more four year old – think what you like, break the rules, maybe, and learn as you go – but behave like the grown-up that you are, aware of social etiquette and how you want you and your business to be perceived. If you start trying to be someone else it will just become confusing for you and for everyone else! And why would clients go to the copycat when they could go to the real thing???
These are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the similarities of business ownership and starting school. We haven’t talked about play time – why it’s important to take a break and have some down time; encountering nasty children – dealing with complaints and being resilient; or the pressure of tests – actually going live with your product or service!
The key to it all is being open-minded – meet new people, smile, listen to suggestions and take note – it might not work now, but maybe it will in the future.
So, as you send the children on their way, back to school, remember to listen to the stories of their days and think about what we can learn. Just make sure you hide the crisps first!