How business growth is like parenting

Growing a business and learning to step back at a certain point for success to flow is similar to raising a child,...

Written by Wyseminds · 2 min read >

Growing a business and learning to step back at a certain point for success to flow is similar to raising a child, Julie Perkins tells Lisa Tilstra, host of the Make Life Less Difficult podcast.

“When you’re passionate about something, which you are as an entrepreneur, it’s that natural human instinct to hold onto what you love. You want to care for it, this baby-infant-child. It’s exactly the same pattern with a business.”

The Wyseminds founder knows a thing or two about growing companies. Brought up by entrepreneur parents who built a billion pound business while never losing sight of their core values, business growth is in her DNA.

The wisdom she draws from her background and success in expanding the once UK-based Specsavers into the Netherlands is what she now passes on to female founders through training, support and coaching, along with her team at Wyseminds. It starts with knowing yourself first, she says, then understanding the patterns of growth which are akin to the various stages of parenting.

Growing your precious entity: the various stages

First there’s the gestation stage when your great business idea forms, gestates, takes shape and expands, before kicking to be let loose into the world as a newborn company. 

Then there’s the early days stage when everyone’s cooing and clucking and running round meeting its demands. The team’s happy to muck in and help nurture your precious entity. The hungry baby business grows bigger and things get busier. The challenge now is to find enough customers to sate its appetite. 

After baby’s first steps everyone has a party to celebrate. But for the founder, there’s no time to nurse a hangover. The business is a toddler now – noisier and more demanding than ever. You meanwhile are running on empty.

Next is the sleep deprivation stage when your business regularly wakes you in the night reminding you of things you’ve forgotten to do. 

And soon you’re at the tipping point stage. Here’s when the printer you fixed yesterday chews up and spits out an important document just moments before a big meeting. Your current place of residence is Hotel Hamsterwheel, a place you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Making things hard for everyone

Exhausted and demotivated, you realise your business is as misaligned as a parent trying to force feed their teenager milk from a bottle. 

It’s the result of putting “yourself at the centre of everything”, says Julie, who recounts this stage in her own journey. “At the same time as making it hard for myself, I was making it hard for these incredible people that surrounded me in the company.”

The women entrepreneurs who approach Wyseminds for advice are all at the tipping point stage and eager to find more effective ways to grow their business.

“You kid yourself you’re still loving what you do because you feel guilty. You don’t want to fall out of love with your business. You’re gripped by a natural human instinct to hold onto what you love – it’s your baby and you feel disloyal.”

The good news is there is a better way!

The better way and a new role for the founder

First and foremost, Julie offers the following advice: “Make yourself redundant.”

This is the stepping back stage. Just as all parents face this when their adolescents seek independence, it’s the same for founders. Parents need to trust they’ve done a good enough job making their values known to their child so there’s a strong foundation they can return to when times are tough. So too, the entrepreneur must be sure the people she hires to run aspects of her business also know what she’s about. 

Values and purpose clearly communicated to everyone from team members and suppliers to your customers, is how you achieve this. They will keep your essence at the core so you can step back with confidence and focus on the bigger picture. 

Here’s the space to breathe stage. When problems arise, you’re there to advise and support, just as many parents are with their adult children. At this point, you’re finally able to check out of Hotel Hamsterwheel and hop aboard a new role as the rudder your business so urgently needs. Just one role, mind – the rudder. Not rudder, bow, stern, wheel, sails and everything else in between!

For more about Julie’s approach visit Wyseminds or contact us here. The Wyseminds Your Journey programme could help you step off the hamster wheel. Sign up for your free trial here.