… From the desk of Jayne Battey
On February 11, 2013, my mom passed away at the age of 87. Over the next four days, my family came together to plan and host a celebration of her wonderful life. All in all, it was an amazing week- full of heartache and joy; laughter and tears. It was truly a bittersweet ending.
At the Celebration Service at the end of the same week, my dad spoke, along with all five grown children. We shared memories of our mom, spoke about what a kind and gracious lady she was, and honored her with fun and poignant memories. Despite the fact that none of us shared our eulogy with each other in advance, it was gratifying to see how consistent our memory of our mom was. One thing in particular stood out to all of us—while my mom was a classically wonderful 1950’s -1960’s mom, she was also an entrepreneur way ahead of her time. As my brother (another entrepreneur) put it:
You were way ahead of your time in “work-life” balance. You did an amazing job squeezing your work with Dutchmaid in around raising a family of five. I am sure I learned more from you about being an entrepreneur than I understood as I rode with you on deliveries all over the lower Connecticut River Valley. I don’t think we ever really knew, or gave you credit, for just how hard you worked. But I also know how much joy that work brought to you—and that is another gift you gave to me as well.
So as I return to California and continue my own entrepreneurial efforts, it’s a good time to reflect on what it takes to build and manage a business.
In its December 2012 issue, Inc. Magazine published an article entitled “ The Non-negotiable Traits of a True Entrepreneur” (http://www.inc.com/mehdi-maghsoodnia/what-to-expect-when-you-start-up.html). The article sites four key traits:
1. Sign up for adventure: I love this line: “Starting a company…is like embarking on a four-week backpacking journey with enough food for one week.” Enough said.
2. You have to be patient. And I concur—all those stories of overnight success are just that: stories.
3. You can’t be a perfectionist. I agree with this too. There is a lot of lingo these days about “small bets” and going for little failures. For me, I think about what we call the “spiral theory”—that means you keep a big picture view and refine over and over again as your product or service matures. You don’t sweat the small stuff. Again, Inc. Magazine says it well: “Embrace the messiness.”
4. You have to be your company’s best sales person. My mom was really terrific at this. She loved her work; she loved her product (which was mostly this really awesome underwear); and she loved people. Today we talk about entrepreneurs showing their “passion”—I think my mom just considered it part of how she showed up in the world every day.
So here’s what my mom and I would add to the Inc. list:
5. You have to find real joy in hard work. Being an entrepreneur is pretty much a 24×7 activity—you eat, breathe, and sleep your product. What other people might consider work, you consider just about the most fun you could possibly have.
6. Be flexible and nimble. While it might be a prerequisite to have a fairly clear vision of what you hope to bring to the world, most entrepreneurs will tell you that being flexible is in their DNA. They can adjust and shift without skipping a beat, and they have laser-like focus on finding new opportunities where most other people aren’t even looking.
7. It helps tremendously to be an optimist. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you they have had their share of good days and bad days. The best entrepreneurs just consistently believe that the future will always be better.
8. It doesn’t hurt to be hungry. This last trait is a hallmark of both my mother and me (and likely my brother as well). I think we were hungry—not only to feed our families, but to be independent, creative, and valued as professionals. It gave us drive and courage and passion; I suspect most successful entrepreneurs remember their hungriest days with great fondness.
I miss my mom. But I know her smile, her passion, her joy in work and family is here with me. And she is with me as I sit at my desk, consider the future, and bask in the messy, hungry, passionate, scary, and very fun life of a serial entrepreneur.