Earlier this week, I went to a business meeting. As part of my introduction, I mentioned that I have two businesses. At break time, a woman asked me about my work and asked if it was a "cottage business" so I could be home with my kids. I was stunned. I’ve had my business for 14 years, I have an MBA, I have contractors, I have a client list, and, yes, I have kids. I cannot even imagine anyone asking a man if his business was a "cottage business". However, I decided to try building a relationship with her, rather than blowing up.
I talked to her more to see where she was going with this. She was surprised that so many moms today run businessess and have time at home with their kids and she seemed genuinely pleased by this idea, which hadn’t been an option when she was my age. I suggested that technology, changing attitudes and the advent of one-year mat leave in Canada have contributed to this, although I know many dads who work from home too. In the end, I think this woman was simply interested in the idea of having a business and small children and that she meant me no disservice.
I had a business before I had kids
In my case, I had a business years before I ever had kids. In fact, I always seemed to have something on the go, whether it was trying to start a newspaper when I was 8 or raking leaves when I was 10 or babysitting at 12 or typing up term papers when I was 17. By the time I was in university, I was thinking non-stop about a business and how it would support my life goals. Since I wanted to have kids, I built that into the model. I’ve certainly made some choices with my business that reflect my desire to spend more time when my kids are small.
But many people start businesses when life changes
For many people, the idea of starting a business comes later. Given that, in Canada, we’ve had one-year maternity leaves for a while now, it’s no surprise that women are using that time to rethink how they want their careers to look. When I think back on the first year of my older son’s life, I spent a lot of time networking with other moms and dads. I met lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, journalists, editors, franchisors, instructors, nurses, teachers, engineers — people from a wide variety of backgrounds. And I met all sorts of people who were starting businesses and, inevitably, names, business cars, LinkedIn profiles, emails and other details got passed around. It was an incredible networking opportunity, because, for the first time, you could admit your vulnerabilities, say that you were looking to make a change, build new business contacts while confessing you had a personal life and really just hang out and get to know people. In fact, at a kids’ birthday party this weekend, I got asked for as many business cards as I did playdates.
So, I think many people do start businesses to accommodate the arrival of children. But I think many people start businesses to reflect a variety of goals in their lives, whether that’s a desire to downshift, pursue their passions, make more money, become an expert, get away from a toxic workplace, earn extra money or otherwise define success for themselves.
How about you?
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