While the business world seems to change from moment to moment, the things moms say -- that are often eerily applicable to business -- are timeless.
I’m willing to bet most people reading this told their mother at some point, “You’re not the boss of me!” only to have her clear up the confusion pretty quick. I know I did, and I’ve watched my kids do the same thing.
It turns out, though, that a lot of those classic bits of mom-wisdom are actually pretty good risk management tips. Moms tend to be more risk-averse than entrepreneurs. They’re known for trying to avoid trips to the ER and preventable meltdowns. Startup culture preaches a different gospel, but that’s exactly why following motherly insight can help minimize the fallout from our riskiest tendencies.
This Mother’s Day, let's take a moment to appreciate the great advice we got as kids -- and the fact that our mothers didn’t charge astronomical consulting fees for it!
Here are some classic mom-isms and how they can help keep your business in the black.
1. “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”
Entrepreneurs who have no employees tend to seek out community wherever they can find it. While co-working and collaboration can lead to great innovation, they can also fuel fad following.
After all, when everyone else at the coffee shop is buying the hot new email management software, it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon. But following the crowd can prevent a business owner from doing what’s best for their venture.
On a more philosophical note, it’s hard being an entrepreneur: Sometimes we want other people to make tricky decisions for us. But in another one of Mom’s classic sayings: What’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right -- for a business and in life.
2. “You’re spreading yourself too thin.”
Running a business takes almost super-human dedication, energy and caffeine levels.
Kind of like motherhood.
Startup culture is one that praises the hardest workers and equates sleep with weakness. The reality, though, is that skimping on sleep doesn’t just make you moody and tired, it also impedes your problem-solving abilities and creative capacity -- two things that can seriously impact your bottom line.
It can be hard to turn off the computer when you can keep going for just one more hour, but remember that success in the long-term requires you to perform at your peak. And that means getting enough Zzzs.
3. “Finish your vegetables.”
Eating well is just as important as sleeping for top health and performance. We all know this, and yet...
Let's just say it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder.
4. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times...”
Moms know that kids have to be told to clean their room or wash out their bathing suits or hang up their towels at least a thousand times before they actually do these things.
It’s an endless source of frustration for moms, as we’ve all learned when we finally hear that tone of voice that sends us scampering upstairs to straighten up -- stat. It’s an important lesson for business owners, too. In communications to both customers and employees, it’s never wise to assume the message got across the first time or the second -- or even the hundredth time.
That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with prospects, develop a brand message and spend time on every communication you develop. You never know which one will be the one that connects.
5. “Put on a coat. It’s cold out there.”
As a kid, you wanted to look cool in line for the school bus. But when you ditched your coat and then got sick for a week -- too sick to even watch cartoons -- that was actually your first lesson in prevention as medicine.
Today, maybe you don’t think you have the money to pay for better data encryption or an accountant, but the truth is that both are services business owners need. Paying for them may mean cutting back elsewhere -- finding additional funding sources or otherwise making a sacrifice -- but skipping a necessity now can lead to huge problems down the road. Like pneumonia. Or an IRS audit.
Either way, Mom was right: The ounce of prevention is much less trouble than the pound of cure.
6. “It’s not you I’m worried about -- it’s the other drivers.”
Remember this little gem from learning to drive? Mom swore she trusted you on the road, but she was smart enough to know that one safe driver can still get into plenty of accidents.
The same is true with a conscientious business owner. No matter how well you light your entryway, how clearly you communicate your services and how deftly you manage customer complaints, some people will take action against you. Legal action. Lawsuits. Yikes.
We always tell our customers that there’s a lot you can do to minimize the likelihood of a lawsuit, but you can never fully prevent one. At the end of the day, lawsuits are initiated by people who want to sue, whether or not they have good cause. Business owners can protect their revenue against these “bad drivers” with liability insurance, which steps in to cover the costs of a lawsuit when one arises.
7. “Because I said so.”
A lot of small-business owners struggle to step into the role of leader or CEO, especially if their first hire is a friend or former coworker. But in order to succeed in the long-term, entrepreneurs have to be willing to behave like the head of a business. That might mean disciplining an employee, delegating unpleasant work or even making a decision just because it needs to be made.
Moms are universally good at playing the “being in charge” card. We can all learn a lot from that.
Most of us didn’t realize it at the time, but our mothers were -- and still are -- full of helpful hints for managing risk in business. We may have rolled our eyes when they told us, “One day, you’ll thank me,” but now we know better.
The good news? This Sunday is an excellent time to say “thanks” to your first -- and quite possibly best -- business adviser. Happy Mother’s Day!