For as long as my two sons have been alive, I’ve been building my own public relations consulting business. Only now am I beginning to gain glimpses into their world as to what it has been like to be raised by two entrepreneurs who have been simultaneously ‘raising’ their own businesses in unison with growing a family. One in particular instance is pictured above. My youngest son, Bennis, was asked in preschool to finish the prompt, “One thing that makes me unique is…” and his answer was innocent, endearing, and also put a spotlight on how children are always silently observing the world around them – and how impactful these observations are to shaping their reality.
To set the record straight Bennis is my maiden name. I spent 24 years of my life as Stephanie Bennis and that identity runs deep. Changing my last name to Stephanie Shirley was a wonderful milestone and a symbol of honor to my marriage, but I still wanted to hold on to my Bennis roots. I thought what better than to keep that name alive in other ways, this includes both my business and my son. One just happened to come before the other. After seeing this photo come home in Bennis’s backpack, having a good laugh with my husband, and then carefully explaining to Bennis the true origin of his name and its significance to me, it got me wondering. What else have my children observed of their entrepreneurial parents and what might we have misrepresented to them? I did some thinking, and asked some open questions to my sons, and here is everything I want them to know about choosing the entrepreneurial journey.
Great outcomes come from hard work.
I want my children to know that everything comes from one of two things and most often a combination of the two – hard work and faith. Every benefit of entrepreneurship is the result of dedication and hard work, combined with opportunity and faith. My husband and I have had many conversations about the lifestyle we have created for our children. It can’t be denied that they have certain privileges that others do not. That in of itself is not a bad thing. But it can turn bad, if misunderstood or used inappropriately. Foremost, I want my sons to understand that if you want something you have to work for it – that can be a new house or car, unlimited vacation days, a flexible work schedule as well as a strong marriage, loving family, relationship with God, and a content heart. It all takes work. Even if something appears effortless in someone’s life, ask them; I assure you there is effort behind it.
There will be problems, but they can be solved.
I know my children have overheard stressful conversations with clients or me venting to my husband, and they have seen the tired or distracted look in my eyes. But I’m equally confident that they have heard the sigh of relief, cheer of victory, or laugh of success when those problems that once weighed on my shoulders were lifted. The lesson here is that you will always, always face challenges, but those challenges aren’t the end. In fact, the more you face, the better you get at climbing over them. You learn from past challenges and soon nothing phases you. If my sons can learn to adapt, problem solve, and remain calm – all from seeing me do the same, I will feel like every struggle I have faced and will continue to face is well worth it.
Every person has a story and a purpose.
Every person has a unique career calling. For my husband and myself, ours just both happened to be building our own businesses. That makes us no more and no less than anyone else. Doctors matter, teachers matter, hairdressers matter, landscapers matter, mechanics matter…you get my point. Each and every person we interface with daily has a story and a purpose, and because you have communicated with them, they also play a role in your life, no matter how small or brief it may seem. I communicate with a lot of people daily, and when I stand back and look at the web of connections this has woven in my life, I’m in awe of its beauty. I see people who have jobs that I know I’d be terrible at, and I’m sure people see my work and think, “Oh wow, that would be way too overwhelming.” The point is, my story is my own and my career fits me. So long as my sons pursue their own story and purpose, my heart is happy.
It’s never a solo journey.
And most importantly, entrepreneurship – life even – is not a solo journey. I’m an introvert and a sole proprietor, but I by no means attempt this life alone. I need my network. They fill in the gaps and do things I could never figure out on my own. They’re my sounding board and sometimes I just need them to hear my lament over an issue or frustrating interaction. Oh, believe me. I’m grateful for the days I don’t have a calendar littered with conference calls or Zoom meetings, but I do look forward to the meaningful interactions that inspire me, bring me to life, and get me excited for what’s ahead. For my children, I want them to know yes, entrepreneurship allows you to create something all your own. But it doesn’t mean you are alone. Rather, you need to seek out and surround yourself with the right community of people who bring out your best, and where you can do the same for them.
Can you relate? Or what can you add to this list? I’ve love to know from my fellow business community how your children would describe the work of their mom or dad.