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Business Inspiration

The Juggling Act: 5 Lessons Learned from Starting a Business around My Kids’ Schedule

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There are countless reasons why individuals choose to start businesses. From wanting to make more money and gain more job security to being able to leave a legacy that can be passed on to the next generation, there are many benefits that come with entrepreneurship. However, one of the most compelling reasons of all for becoming your own boss is to be able to have more time to be a parent.

As an employee, it can be next to impossible to meet all of your child’s daily needs. Being there for school pickups, drop-offs, events and activities does not always mesh with working a traditional 9-to-5 job. Becoming a business owner means gaining the ability to master your own schedule and that of your children, too.

Of course, time is often in short supply for business owners. The trick to keeping all the balls in the air is learning techniques for working around school and extra-curricular activities to also find time to fit in the many responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with running a successful business. We asked a few parents who have jumped on the entrepreneurial bandwagon what they have learned about juggling their long daily “to do” list. We thought we’d share some of their insightful lessons.

Lesson #1 – Be Adaptable

Life is not always predictable. Sometimes, being thrown a curveball can cause you to quickly shift your priorities. Adaptability is necessary for dealing with the daily rigors of parenting, as well as the unpredictable challenges of running a business.

For Zaida Khaze, life took a different direction after her eldest daughter was diagnosed under the spectrum of autism at the age of two. Her daughter’s diagnosis prompted this mother of two to leave a career in direct marketing and start her own business. With a need for flexible hours and a desire to provide more security for her family, Zaida launched Wiggletot Diaper Changer.

“My career path changed immediately after being told by a teacher that I needed to have my daughter evaluated for a social disorder,” says Zaida. “I needed flexibility in my schedule to be hands on with her developmental therapists, doctors, peer groups and teachers. Having my own business enables me to work unconventional hours on my business when my girls are sleeping and allows more time with them on weekends and after school.

Much has changed in Zaida’s life since her daughter’s initial diagnosis several years ago. She now has a growing business that sells nationwide, and her daughter’s autism diagnosis was officially removed last May thanks in part to a restrictive diet that was found through Zaida’s diligent efforts.

Lesson #2 – Enlist the Help of Your Kids

Joe Fiduccia, owner and founder of America’s Footprints, manages his business from a home office working side-by-side with his wife. The couple quickly found out that it’s not always easy managing parenting and a business from the same location. For them, the best way to effectively bridge these roles is to include their seven-year-old son in the business.

“Our son plays an active role in our business,” says Joe. “When we find he is getting restless, wants to play or seeks attention, we bring him into our business decision-making process. We ask him questions and solicit his feedback. He loves doing art projects, so we ask him to draw basic sketches of how he envisions a new concept we talked about or a new webpage we’re thinking of doing. By bringing him in with us, he truly feels like he’s making a positive difference in the success of our business. And, he absolutely is!”

Lesson #3 – Be Prepared for Early Mornings and Late Nights

When you’re a business owner who is also balancing the labor-intensive role of parenting, there are sacrifices that need to be made. Often, the biggest is having to fit your work around your family’s schedule. Whether it’s staying up for hours after everyone has gone to bed to finish a report or getting up early to check emails before you make breakfast and get the kids off to school, days and nights for entrepreneurial parents can be very long.

As the founder and president of ReputationManagement.com and father of two boys, Bill Fish found himself in the position of juggling a newborn at the same time he was trying to run and grow a business. He knew that during this high stress time, he had to get his work done while also still finding time for his wife and new son.

“Each morning, I would go to work around six a.m.,” says Bill. “But, I would, without question, walk in the door by five p.m. This way we could eat dinner as a family, and I could watch the baby. Then five nights a week, I would head back to the office from nine p.m. until midnight. There was plenty of work to do, but I tried to find a way to put my family first.”

Lesson #4 – Prepare for Those Unexpected Events

Kids can be unpredictable. An unexpected event like an illness, injury or even a misplaced homework assignment can send your fine-tuned work schedule into a tailspin if you don’t have a crisis plan in place. Often, these issues crop up at the most inopportune time, like when you have a presentation to give to a new customer or when you’re hurrying to meet a deadline.

For Michael Stein, a search engine marketing specialist and the president of Connection Marketing, having a crisis plan helped him keep business functioning when his two-year-old son recently required an emergency trip to the hospital.

“You definitely need to have a plan in place for when the unexpected happens,” says Michael. “This means having a protocol for dealing with situations in a professional manner. You can’t ignore your kids or your clients. It requires having great communication with your clients and enlisting strategic backup solutions until you can resume normal operations. Clients are much more likely to be understanding if you can explain to them what has happened, assure them that they are a priority and provide them with updates.”

Lesson #5 – Have a System for Everything in Your Business and Your Personal Life

Organization is key to making time for everything in your business and your children’s lives. Streamlining daily tasks by having time-saving systems in place can help keep everyone on track. As the busy author of GraduatesGuideToMoney.com, speaker and mother of four, Tana Gildea had to come up with systems, checklists and other organizational tools to manage her work and minimize her stress. Here are a few of her very practical organizational tips:

  • “Have a separate bin for each child’s uniform (baseball, dance outfits, karate) that lives in the laundry room. Wash it and then into the bin it goes. No more hunting when it’s time for practice!”
  • “Create an inventory of school supplies like poster boards, markers, glue and construction paper for all those school projects. Having the basics on hand will enable you to avoid the last minute rush to the store.”
  • “Write out a weekly schedule in advance and tape it to the fridge where everyone can see what is happening all week long. Make your meal plan at the same time you create your schedule so that you know the days when you need a quick on-the-go sandwich instead of a sit-down meal.”

Have you learned a valuable lesson from raising kids and growing a business? We’d love to share it with the Kabbage community. Include your lesson in the comment section below.