Four entrepreneurial mums share tips on running a business – and a family!
Raising children while building a business takes determination, a healthy sense of adventure and the ability to get comfortable with chaos. Having already trodden that path, these successful women have spoken about tricks to make the journey smoother for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Meldrum is the co-founder and CEO of organic children’s snack food brand Whole Kids and, with husband James, she manages the international expansion of their business while caring for two children.
She doesn’t see value in compartmentalising work and life and instead encourages parents to see the similarities between growing a business, being responsible for staff, and raising children.
“The challenge with both is to foster creative thinking, and to encourage a free spirit but with structure in place.” Part of that is around modelling the right behaviour. “You can try and maintain control, or you can relinquish that and take people along as part of the journey.”
“For a lot of women in business it’s hard to accept when family does take up time. For example, if your child is sick, you’re not moving at the same pace with work and that can be a frustration. But that’s where you just need to accept that you can’t do things perfectly.
“It’s a matter of managing through that chaos.”
Her tip? Be consistent, whether it’s in conversations with staff or with the kids. While most entrepreneurs tend to be trailblazing and impulsive, it helps to slow down enough to put structure (and some rules) in place. “Kids are really good negotiators so you start to learn some pretty good skills.”
Founder of food retail giant Boost Juice, Allis says she opened her first store in Adelaide while on maternity leave, thinking it might be a good option to work her own hours. That didn't happen, with Allis juggling 80-hour weeks and three young children. Five years after the launch and with a fourth child, she stepped out of the CEO role to regain some balance, stop working weekends and recharge the tank.
While Allis has admitted her attempts to balance work with raising four children sometimes turned out "poorly" she ensures the office is no more than five kilometres from home and appreciates her fortune in having her mother, who lives around the corner, help out.
"My husband also does not see it as the kids are my job, we are very equal in our household, other than he has no idea where the laundry is," she has said previously. Allis's advice? "Do not, ever, feel guilty. A happy woman is a great mother and wife. If our kids get love, guidelines and lots of hugs, then they will be fine.”
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg caused ripples among the working mother community in 2013 when she released her book Lean In.
Despite the obvious advantages of wealth and success, which she acknowledged, Sandberg still identified key real-life issues, including the need for women to stop being "maternal gatekeepers”.
That means, Sandberg says, making sure both partners share an equal load when it comes to parenting and household work. It also means women relinquishing control over exactly how the job should be done, and giving partners an opportunity to get more involved. For maternal gatekeepers, learning to let go can free up an extra five hours a week, research shows.
Carman muesli founder Carolyn Creswell is careful to manage her work day running the estimated $83 million company, being ruthless about limiting non-essential meetings in order to boost efficiency so she can spend more time at home.
“You come to work and you work hard. You have good technology and get stuff done. You don’t go to too many meetings or have people in your way, so that you can achieve in your role; then, you get the bloody hell out of here,” she has told Fairfax Media.
With a much loved property in Bena, east of Melbourne, Creswell makes a point of spending at least three nights a week as a family at the farm. Eating together is a key, both for staff around the lunch table in the office, and for the family at home. “Everyone has to explain one thing that made their day sparkle and then say one kind thing about somebody else."