Lessons Learned From Building a Company and Raising Kids

Written by Ledion Bitincka

August 9, 2022

When I had my first child almost six years ago, I expected that most of my time would be spent in the role of a teacher rather than a student. I have two kids now — and I’m certainly teaching them as much as I can as they grow and learn to navigate the world — but if someone were keeping score, my kids might end up on top when it comes to who’s taught who more.

Another thing that surprised me is how similar building a family is to build a company from the ground up. Both raising a child and building companies are equal parts happiness, excitement, worry, and of course, a general lack of sleep. When starting Cribl and raising kids, you have this idea of how things will go, but as life often does – it throws serious curveballs along the way.

Building a Startup is Shockingly Similar to Raising a Child – Perhaps with Less Shit

Building a company and raising a family is not a decision to be made lightly. Neither are short-term commitments. When you decide to go, it’s an all-in decision. You don’t “clock out” from parenting just as you don’t “clock out” from starting a company. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon, or maybe an iron man. You’ll fail a lot. You’ll question yourself a lot. It’s a long game, though. You sometimes have to call it a day and regroup tomorrow.

If you enter parenting or the startup world with the idea that it will be easy, you will quickly be disappointed. Things get messy — literally and figuratively. The messes and subsequent cleanups also get more and more complicated as each of them grows. Both require constantly coming up with solutions to new and more intricate problems. Your client list and number of employees grow as you progress, just like the number of people in your children’s lives as they age. Additional people naturally invite more complexity, but luckily, it also brings me more happiness and fulfillment.

Should You Take Advice from Other Founders and Parents?

One of the best ways to learn is from people who’ve gone through the same process, and that’s true of both parenting and startups. Don’t follow all advice you get, though. Listen intently, process, and see if it applies to your situation. Everyone’s situation is unique, and although something worked for someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. Just as family culture is different, so is the culture in your startup. Apply when necessary, but learn from all of it.

For example, we had someone advise us early on that making sales of $50,000 would be impossible over the phone and that you have to meet potential customers in person. They obviously meant well, and this theory was true for them and for their specific line of business, but it turned out not to be the case for us. Our success in selling remotely could be because of the industry, the product, or the customers that we’re working with — we may never know. But either way, this particular piece of advice didn’t ring true for us, and it certainly didn’t as the COVID pandemic raged. No one was selling much in person during that period.

People who’ve been there will often have useful information that you can use to help you reach your goals — in the same way that parents would have more pertinent words of wisdom for raising kids than you’d get from people without kids. All advice is good, but all advice is not always applicable.

When we first started Cribl, we tried to consume as much useful information from books as possible. Much of what we read wasn’t applicable to us, because our startup had three co-founders, and many of the perspectives in the books we read were from single-founder companies. Others had advice primarily for B2C companies, whereas ours was going to be strictly B2B. Maybe only 25–30% of what we read applied to us, but that small chunk was very beneficial to us in the beginning and still is today. The critical thing to remember here is to use advice from others to gain perspective and see how it applies to your situation. Sometimes it will. Sometimes it won’t. Other times, it’ll only partially apply. Use the advice to accelerate your learning. Perhaps you don’t apply it directly, but it gives you a headstart on finding the solution to your problem. Advice that doesn’t apply can sometimes give you a clue on where to start.

Be Sure To Avoid Survivorship Bias

Since we’re talking about taking advice, I wanted to ensure I mentioned the importance of seeking it out from successful and unsuccessful businesses. I love this quote from Arianna Huffington: Failure is not the opposite of success but rather a stepping stone to success. Learning from failures is just as important as learning from successes. People who have made mistakes in business — and as parents — will have valuable lessons that you cannot get anywhere else. Learning these lessons from others is much better than learning them the hard way. Use the advice to avoid potential pitfalls when possible.

Many factors go into creating a successful company. These could be something as simple as luck or being in the right industry at the right time. Or they could be traditional factors like having an excellent product, an advantage in your industry, or a super talent running the show. The list of reasons for success goes on, but most businesses that fail do so because of a lack of product-market fit, lack of project-skill fit, or just bad execution. Learning about these reasons for failure — and avoiding them like the plague — is just as crucial as learning how to succeed and planning around success. A key thing to remember: hope isn’t a strategy.

We’re lucky to have a network of amazing connections that we’ve been able to tap into over the years, both professionally for business and personally for family-related things. Without those advisors’ guidance, Cribl might not be as successful as it has been to this point, and raising children would have involved a lot more lost sleep. Above all, being an entrepreneur, just like being a parent, requires you to be a student of your craft, always caring, always learning, and constantly adapting. Check out our careers page if you’d like to join us on our journey.

 

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