There's a reason that less than 36% of small businesses launched in 2014 were opened by women (Wall Street Journal). Beyond the challenges of raising money from Venture Capital Firms, there's the challenge of raising a family. I've always been someone that was inspired by the path less travelled. I love looking at something and thinking, "I could do that!" I've always hated saying no to a challenge.
Looking back on my path from mom to business leader, I have to admit that the most difficult challenges resulted from trying to balance a growing family with a budding business. I lucked out with an amazing husband that supports my dreams and definitely carries more than his fair-share when it comes to raising our daughters. But, if I told you that the journey was unequivocally worthwhile, I'd be lying. The well-travelled path has some great benefits: better work / life balance, benefits and security. Although, if you're like me, I'll share some lessons with you that will help you better navigate the path less travelled.
1. Decide on 3 Priorities Above All Else
If you want to experience success in anything, you need to prioritize. Victory only comes after a period of continual focus on a goal. For me, I found that I could successfully juggle three key goals at a time. For example, while still trying to put out all the little fires that tend to emerge in the course of a day, I made sure I did three specific things daily, without fail: (1) I spent time with my daughters and learned about their day. (2) I spent 30 minutes on an elliptical, and (3) I spent time reflecting on how my business was operating.
The third focus could change from week to week, but the first two helped me maintain my physical health and my relationship with my family. When I was on the road, I'd FaceTime with my husband and kids. No matter what, I dedicated a little bit of time every day to playing an active role in their lives. My work baggage stayed at work during that time.
2. Focus on Process Instead of Results
We all want to win and be perfect. But, if you're going to succeed, you need to have a process that delivers consistent results. As an example, I knew that my goal was to make a ton of money by creating a successful business consulting firm. I found that on days where I focused on making as much money as possible, I actually lost sight of the little things that earned the loyalty of my clients.
My attention to detail and willingness to spend a little bit of extra time deeply understanding the needs of my clients earned their loyalty. If I had focused on just bringing in money, I would have cut short my consultations and meetings. Focusing on results can be short-sighted. Instead, focus on how you're operating and how you can improve; streamline, innovate and communicate more effectively. The money will follow.
3. Failure is the Tuition Paid to the School of Life
You're going to fail. Sorry, but it's true. If you're juggling a family and a business, there's no way you can give your all to both 24/7. Whenever I found myself at a low-point, I would remind myself of a quote from the founder of J.C. Penney:
Image source: Insightoftheday
When I forgot my daughter's parent teacher conference and accidentally worked right through the meeting without leaving my desk, I learned the importance of creating a unified calendar for my family and business. When I failed to leave enough money in our payroll account to cover our employee obligations at the end of the week, I learned how to create a better accounting system that compensated for delayed payments from clients.
With every screw up I grew. I marshaled my will power and looked at the problem, vowing never to learn the same lesson twice. If you let yourself become discouraged by setbacks, you might forget to take stock and learn from the experience; dooming yourself to repeating them.
4. Focus on What's Important, Improve Your Process and Learn from Failure
There will be times where it's tempting to fill your plate beyond capacity. Drowning in opportunity as an entrepreneur requires skillful procrastination and focus. But if you can focus in on your three top priorities, without fail, success will always be right around the corner.
And don't let the goal get in the way of the solution. Focusing on better execution will lead to a stronger, more consistent performance. And above all else, take the lessons that your failures provide. If you can focus on your goals, fine-tune your habits and profit from every setback, the path less travelled will always be your friend.