Guest blog: Five ways parenthood can help improve your business

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

By Heather Whaling

The urge to "nest" your home is an instinct for most expecting parents. But, if you're an entrepreneur like me, you may feel the urge to "nest" your business, too.

When I was pregnant, I spent the last few months of my pregnancy getting my business organized, creating quality-assurance processes, figuring out how to be more efficient, and making sure we had the right people in the right roles.

Little did I know at the time, but I was also preparing the business for exponential growth after the baby arrived. Since having my son in 2013, my company has grown from four people to 23. Revenue increased by more than 100 percent in the last year alone and we've added more organizational structure-including bringing on a vice president of client services and identifying practice leaders to strengthen our key service areas.

Honestly, this growth wouldn't have happened if I hadn't "nested" the business-thinking strategically about where it was headed, how my time was best spent to deliver the most value to the business as a whole, and who I needed to hire to fill the gaps while I was out on maternity leave.

Thanks to this process and the resulting growth, I now understand that being a parent actually improved my business. For example, parenthood has helped me learn the following lessons:

Define your all.

When I was pregnant, people often asked when I'd slow down or how I would balance motherhood and entrepreneurship. Those questions are based on a false assumption-an assumption that presumes you have to choose between being a good parent and being a good business owner. You don't. There's so much societal pressure to conform and to fit into an accepted parental stereotype, but what if you don't want to fit into everybody else's bucket?

As soon as I became a parent, I started to embrace a new mantra: "Define your all. Don't let others define it for you." Having a baby forced me to crystallize my definition of success, including what it looks like for me to be a good parent and what it means for my company to be successful. This approach helps me be a better parent, person and business owner.

Be more intentional with your time.

I leave work three days a week at 4 p.m. to spend quality time with my son, which means I need to get a lot done while I'm in the office. That way, when I'm home with my toddler, I can be fully engaged with him-not half-present while the other half of my brain focuses on work.

Knowing that I need to leave at a certain time forces me to be more efficient and intentional with my time. This also forced me to get comfortable with delegating, something that doesn't come naturally to me. Concentrating my time where I make the most impact has most definitely helped the business grow.

Do work that matters with people you like.

One of the most important lessons I'm trying to teach my son is that if you have the ability to help, you have a responsibility to help. That philosophy carries over to the business too. Since becoming a parent, I've dedicated even more time and dollars to supporting causes, organizations and individuals that impact on our community. That said, it's part altruism, part good for business. I can trace many paying clients back to relationships that initially developed when I donated time to a committee or sat on a board. The business benefits make saying yes to a volunteer opportunity an easy decision.

Similarly, we want to work with people who are genuinely good humans. (Seriously. We have a strict "No Jerks Allowed" House Rule.) After all, if I'm working instead of spending time with my son, I'm going to work with people I enjoy and want to succeed. No business owner likes leaving money on the table; however, I'd rather turn down a prospective opportunity than work with someone who has jerk-like tendencies.

Remember that life just sometimes happens.

When I went into labor five weeks early, we were life-flighted to the hospital, and then we spent 13 days in the NICU. For the first two weeksof my son's life, I sat day and night by his side. Parenthood has taught me a lot, including that sometimes life just happens, no matter how much you attempt to plan ahead.

In turn, this has made me more empathetic to the people in my office. You can't always separate your personal and professional lives. Being a parent has helped me understand how to blur the lines, and create an environment where people can have lives outside of work, too.

Realize the importance of "me"-time.

Raising a child, while running a growing business, keeps me pretty busy. But, I still make time to volunteer, support local/entrepreneurial events, grab brunch or happy hour with friends, meditate and practice yoga (though, admittedly, not as often as I'd like on those last two!). I strive to live a well-rounded life. Taking time for myself and the things that keep me grounded gives me energy to focus on my priorities and enables me to be a better mom.

At the end of the day, I want my son to understand that you can be a good parent and achieve ambitious career goals. It doesn't have to be either/or. I want to be a good mom, and I want to build a business that my son can be proud of. As a result, being a parent has made me a better business owner, too.

Heather Whaling is founder and president ofGeben Communication, which focuses on the intersection of traditional and digital PR.