Originally published on AllBusiness.
Like many entrepreneurs, I am also a mother. So, in a sense, I have two children: the human one and the business. They’re just two years apart (my son is 13 and the older of the two), and I’ve seen a lot of parallels in nurturing them both over the years.
If I’d written this article 10 years ago (oh wait, I did), the advice would be much different. With a teenager on the cusp of high school in my home, I find the strategies I apply to running my business a bit different than they were in the past.
1. One critic does not define your brand
If I were to take my son’s sullen, scowling silence to heart, I would think I was the worst mother in the world. But instead, I take it with a grain of salt. I know that he might not like me today, thanks to whatever invisible offense I gave, but tomorrow, things will be okay.
In business, you will have critics. They might leave a nasty review on your Yelp page, or complain to your face. They may tell others not to buy from you. However they do their criticizing, you have to let it pass over you. Don’t take it personally.
Know that some people—like teenagers—will never be happy; it’s not your goal in life to try to make them so. Instead, focus on making the majority of your customer base content by providing stellar products or services and over-the-top customer service.
2. Take a no-thank-you bite
Okay, this advice is actually a throwback to when Max was young and it was all I could do to get him to eat vegetables. Actually, he employed the no-thank-you bite rule when we were in New York City the other day, bravely trying a fried oyster, then screwing up his face in disgust. But hey, I didn’t even make him try it!
In running my business, I’ve discovered that the best way to grow is to try new things. Maybe you test out selling a new product line or expand into other services. Perhaps you try reaching a new demographic. Even if it initially makes you uncomfortable (you’re sure you’ll want to spit out this bite), give it a try. If it sticks, I can say, “I told you so.” If not, move on.
3. Say it in five words or less
This advice was given to me by a friend who has already raised two sons. She may have gotten it from a book, but I’m going to give her the credit for the tip. She said that teenage boys can’t process more than five words at a time. That explains the glazed-over look mine gets when I go on and on about the importance of flossing his teeth!
As a writer, the idea of saying it in only five words is daunting, if not impossible. I mean, if limiting Tweets to 140 characters (recently doubled) was hard for me, how in the world could I condense my message even further?
As it applies to business, the real tip here is to boil down what you need to say to the core elements, be it on your website, in an email, or in a blog post. Forsake all the extraneous filler and fluff. What’s important here? What does your customer care about? How do you help her?
4. Put money in the bank
I don’t mean this literally (though, yes, do actually put money in your bank!). With my son, I do all sorts of things that don’t immediately have a return on investment. I picture his brain like a giant piggy bank. I make deposits when I take him on a trip (that he grumbles about), have a (one-sided) conversation about what it means to be a man, or otherwise do something that I feel enhances him as a human or will do so down the road.
I like to think that one day, he’ll smash open that piggy bank and say, “Wow, Mama. You really invested in me! Now I’m a well-rounded man who has had worldly experiences. I know I didn’t appreciate them when I was younger, but I’m so grateful to you that I’ll take care of you when you’re old and forget who I am!”
A woman can dream, can’t she?
So how can you invest in your company’s virtual piggy bank? It might be by getting a new website design, even if you feel like can’t really afford it. Attending a networking event. Hiring your first employee. Sometimes the things we do for our businesses don’t have an immediate payoff, but if they’re the right things, they will reap numerous rewards down the road.
This Mother’s Day, I’ll be celebrating my two greatest accomplishments: the survival and thriving of my son . . . and running my business.
Photo courtesy of Susan Guillory