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Management lessons from motherhood

Written by Sarah McVittie on Friday, 04 July 2014. Posted in Start-up Diaries

Business lessons can come from the most unexpected places: even from the mouths of babes

Management lessons from motherhood

When you run a start-up, you soon learn that not everything goes according to plan. Whether it’s learning that the product you’d set your heart on releasing next month won’t be ready for three or finding out you’re pregnant, the unexpected has a habit of throwing all those intricate plans you made off track. The trick is learning how you respond to those challenges in such a way that you make the most of the opportunities coming your way.

In a previous diary, I talked about how one of the big revelations we had with Dressipi was that, in creating the perfect recommendation service for consumers, we’d also created something that retailers would pay for. We knew then that that the business had a different future to the one we’d first envisaged and chose to pursue it. It meant that we had to put some really exciting consumer-focused ideas on ice but it was the right thing to do.

Another one of those life-pivoting moments happened to me a couple of months ago. I had a baby. My son, Archie, was born in March. I can honestly say that being a mum, while one of the most wonderful things ever, is nothing like I expected it to be. I thought I’d be able to have a baby, go back to work and continue working the way I did before. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I definitely work way more efficiently now than I used to before I had Archie. Knowing that I want to be home by bath-time means that I use my time much more effectively. I’m much better about prioritising what needs to be done and what can wait. The experience has also changed the way I look at working mothers. And the same goes for my husband – seeing me going back to work has encouraged him to be more flexible with the maternity policy at his own company.

I’ve also found that becoming a mum has changed my long-term focus as an entrepreneur. Before I was determined to build a great business but now I also want to create something that provides for my children. It’s remarkable how knowing you have someone to look after for the next 20 years or so affects your long-term thinking.

In many ways, the qualities that you need to acquire when you’re running a business are the same as those that you need as a parent. A lot of your job is about encouraging the reluctant – whether that’s a developer, a customer or a sales prospect. Frequently you have to be there to console the disappointed. There will always be the projects that misfire or the sales presentation that doesn’t go down how it should. These are all roles I’ve played as a person who’s grown two businesses from scratch and they’re now things that I’m learning to do as a mother. 

It’s all hard work but it’s also amazing. It’s made me think how lucky I am to be able to see my son grow and develop and change. And along with that I get to work with a great set of people to create a business that will also grow, develop and change over time.

I suppose that when you look at it like that, every day is Mothers’ Day. 

About the Author

Sarah McVittie

Sarah McVittie

McVittie is one half of the talented team behind Dressipi, the fashion tech startup that's stirring up the world of retail. McVittie and co-founder Donna Kelly evenly balance each other out, with product- and detail-focused Kelly packing the corporate capability and McVittie bringing the start-up skills with her sales and shareholding expertise.

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