They say that necessity is the mother of invention. For parents, one
thing’s certain: having children means inventing whole new ways of
Running a business and raising a family are both roles
that take maximum time, energyand commitment. So how can mumtrepreneurs –
and dadtrepreneurs, for that matter – deal with the extra drains on
their energy, hours and their finances, and develop both major
To find out, we talked to business
coaches about the best ways to manage your time and resources. We also
discovered that parenthood can provide business owners with inspiration,
motivation and a renewed enthusiasm.
Wendy Shand of Tots to Travel
unsettling experience on holiday when her son was a toddler inspired
Northamptonshire-based Wendy Shand to set up Tots to Travel, a holiday
company specialising in villa rentals for families with pre-school
After her son fell into a swimming pool at a French
villa when he was just three, Wendy realised there was a gap in the
market for a company to manage holiday lets that had been vetted for
safety and kitted out with toddlers in mind. She completed a local
authority-run business course and then approached villa owners in
France. In return for a fee added to their rental price, each property
was advertised and marketed through the Tots to France website
(totstofrance.co.uk). Wendy visited each property, checked it for safety
and provided it with a parent kit that included toys and
stair-gates.Since she launched Tots to Travel in April 2006, Wendy has
turned over £500,000 and she now has 40 properties on her books in
France, Italy and Spain. Her children, Maisy and Barnaby are now five
and seven respectively. She says: “I never knew I had it in me to be a
businesswoman, but there’s something very motivating about having
children. You suddenly have the drive to make life as you want it to be,
rather than living by somebody else’s rules.”
Laura Tenison of Jojo Maman Bébé
a successful chain of 22 mother-and-baby shops, as well as a thriving
mail order business, makes Laura Tenison, MBE and founder of JoJo Maman
Bébé, one of the most high-profile of that new breed – the
mumtrepreneur.However, despite selling clothes, shoes and nursery
equipment for babies, she actually got her inspiration to start the
business before she had children.
This makes her the ideal person
to ask about how having a family changes an entrepreneur’s approach to
business and how to combine the two time-consuming and challenging
“Both my children were born on Fridays so it gave me the
weekends to recover before going back to work on the Monday,” says
Laura, whose business has bases in Battersea, London and Newport, South
Wales. “Maternity leave just does not exist when you are running a
business. But you can juggle both – even though it meant I had to take
the children into work since I breastfed until they were nearly a year
old. Then they used to come on business trips with me and I even used
them as models for our catalogues.
“Now my sons are aged 11 and 15
it is a bit easier but they still demand my time so I try to be there
in the evenings and for much of the school holiday. But they’re used to
the fact that I run a business – they log on at their desks at my home
What’s the secret to combining roles? “If you want it
enough, you can do it. Plus I’m good at multi-tasking. Family must come
first. Although I am responsible for 250 people’s pay cheques, my
children come first. I am better at empathising with parents as a result
and we area family-friendly business.
“Use children as an
inspiration. JoJo started before I had children but the minute I had
kids my innovative ideas took off – for example, I designed our
children’s wet suits by making one for my own children.
prepared for a busy life. Having children means I have learned to
survive on five hours’ sleep. I get the kids to bed and then do four
hours’ work at night. And use your kids as a motivation. I love what I
do and my children inspire me to work hard! Remember, you don’t have to
be in the office all the time. I have internet access everywhere I go.
My desk overlooks the garden so I can watch them on the trampoline while
I work. Sometimes it is just a case of being there – you can work and
be with the children.
“Step back; let others be entrepreneurial.
It is only when you let others take risks – just like you did, and in a
blame-free culture – that they too can be entrepreneurial and come up
with ideas to grow the business.”
Hannah McNamara of the SME Academy: Managing your responsibilities
coach Hannah McNamara, of the SME Academy, has come up with the
following tips for dealing with parenthood and running a business in the
current economic environment.
In difficult times you need to have the understanding of your family –
and that means open conversations. Some people get convinced that their
other half is having an affair because they start to spend so much time
in the office. Also it helps to explain why you are tired or irritable
when you get home.
Set priorities: Take time out
even if it is for half an hour a day on the way to work – and think
about what is important. When times are tough, people go into panic mode
and tend to run around like headless chickens doing too much but
achieving little. Spend quality time with the clients or on the projects
that matter rather than spreading yourself thin.
Be objective: Owner-managers tend to be too emotionally attached to their business.
Do you think if you want to get something done well, then you have got
to do it yourself? Write down what you have to do and what can be
delegated easily. Doing everything yourself is a false economy – leave
time to play to your strengths.
don’t have to be there all the time: think of yourself as an Olympic
athlete. If you train day in day out with no rest, you will
underperform. Get some balance in your life so you can be in peak
Children grow up fast: It amazes me
that people will outsource childcare but feel they can’t outsource
business tasks. Your children do notice when you are not there – you
can’t get that time back.
Be realistic: Write
down what needs to be done in a day and if that is going to take more
than eight hours, then you are not going to get it all done –
particularly if you allow for distractions. Time yourself – if you give
yourself 15 minutes to do something, you have a target to reach and you
are more likely to achieve this than if you have all day.
Taylor is a psychologist, businesswoman, TV and radio presenter and
author of Fast Track to the Top. Here are her tips on how to run a
business and a family
With a family and a business to look after, it is tempting to forget yourself. Are you sleeping, eating and taking time out?
people work best in blocks of an hour to 90 minutes – that’s when you
need to take a rest. Make time for your family – book them into your
Relaxing is vital as it helps you to see things
differently and it is when you get your bright ideas – you may be able
to come up with 24 new ideas after a recharge.
For my book, I
interviewed 80 top chief executives and asked for the four top secrets
to their success. They were: problem solving – and for that you need to
be relaxed; the ability to deliver the goods; wanting to win; and having
fabulous relationships both at home and work.
When you are
stressed your relationships deteriorate. The executives I interviewed
all said that relationships are key to success.