Growing a Company/Team Is Similar to Raising a Human

Parenting – the hardest, most expensive job you’ll ever love. I see Spanx founder (and billionaire) Sarah Blakely advocating to women, “Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry!” I love to see women looking within themselves for the financial support that they seek. Because, really, there is no one person or entity who can offer you true financial security. However, asking anyone to be a CEO is a lot like asking people to be a parent – it’s no small feat. In fact, there are a lot of similar challenges.

For both jobs, there are basic level requirements and there are excellence standards. A parent’s basic requirement is to keep the child alive until he or she is 18. Parents provide the basic needs of food, water, clothing, safety, and shelter. However, to do a little bit better than “alive,” and to reach a level of “well,” one would provide nutritious food, clean water and shelter, doctor and dentist exams, medicine when needed, along with love and acceptance. We’ve all learned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, so you can take this on up to self-actualized. A company also can offer the basic provisions – an income, a workspace, and expectations of what is to be produced by the employee. Even at the basic level, both are very expensive endeavors.

At least with a child you are the primary influence for the first few years. Due to imprinting, you have a bit of control over what the child is exposed to. When you bring full-grown adults into companies, they come in with a variety of experiences, beliefs, agendas, and values. The hiring process may help you identify some that are helpful and some that are harmful, but, as of yet, this only scratches the surface of what can be known. In both situations, you have little control over outside influences they are exposed to when you’re not in charge of their time. You just have to hope that you have guided them well in the time you had. You have to have faith that they’ll make good decisions that represent both them and you well. When they don’t make good decisions, it can be hard to know if mistakes are a one-off due to lack of experience or knowledge, or due to an ingrained belief system. It’s also difficult to know whether there are potential serious impacts to others.

While it seems that it should be easier to teach an adult, I’m sure you’ve heard that little kids are like sponges. Getting anyone to a point where what they learn becomes automatic and applied with little push requires exhaustive repetition, visual prompts, and utilizing new, fun ways to teach the material. In fact, it can be argued that adults are even harder to teach than kids, as the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” You’ll also find with both that they will mimic what they see over what they hear, including managing one’s emotions.

I’ve heard that the problems get more complex with teenagers. The same is true of companies that have grown. The problems have deeper impact and greater implications. There might be a bit of rebellion with a larger amount of freedom.

Kids and teenagers will make mistakes. It’s hard to know if you did an overall good job until kids are grown and managing their own lives (or businesses). Does this mean that companies that spawn entrepreneurs have done a great job? I guess it could be argued that if the company was so great the talent would stay, but we don’t expect that if we do a good job parenting our kids will stay. In fact, some may conclude that a full-grown adult child living at home who is not a caretaker has failed to learn how to live independently. They are still alive, though so at least baseline success has been achieved.

When a child grows into a self-actualized adult, they understand that they are loved and valued. With both kids and employees, in order to help them be contributors they have to be held accountable for their own actions. They have to be trusted at some point to make their own decisions. They have to be taught that there are highly desirable long-term gains and benefits to doing what is necessary over what is just pleasurable.

The more I look at this list, the more I’m convinced that women who rise to the challenge of parenting may also rise to the challenge of growing a company, and perhaps vice versa. Though, there are certainly enough differences as well, so I’m not going to conclude that’s true in all cases. Whether someone can be excellent at doing both simultaneously is certainly a different debate for a different day, but I’d certainly say there are enough examples to say it’s true. Time will tell, however.

What other similarities do you see between growing a company and raising a human?

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (, is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

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