- Petra Smith is the founder and managing director at Squirrels&Bears, a London-based marketing agency, and a mother of two.
- Kids can teach us a lot about being successful in business, and in life, Smith said.
- In an interview with Business Insider, Smith revealed the lessons she has learnt during the COVID-19 lockdown from her two and four years old children including being creative, ready to adapt, and the importance of taking care of your employees, clients and suppliers.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When the COVID-19 lockdown hit, my children were just under two and four years old. Since they were born, they’ve been a source of inspiration and learning — about myself, my career, and family life. At seven months pregnant with my oldest daughter, I started my own business, and as our family grew, so did my business.
However, the impact of the pandemic has been quick and significant on all of us: contracts were put on hold or even terminated as clients started to cut budgets. Our work-life balance disappeared with two working parents, no childcare, and limited ability to leave the house.
As we accepted the new style of life and work, I’ve been looking at my children to see how they approach challenges. I’ve learned that they are determined and don’t give up. Children don’t just stand up and start running, they learn to walk — step by step until they become confident and steady on their feet. And we’ve just done the same, learned to walk on a slightly different journey. Scroll down to read the five lessons we’ve learned along the way.
1. Be kind and supportive
After explaining the restrictions and the reasons behind the lockdown to two small children, the response I got was: “When I grow up, I will be a doctor, so I can make everyone get better. And then we can go to the playground.”
I believe that if children can choose kindness as their default response, so can we — being kind to ourselves, to each other, and our businesses will go a long way and help us succeed.
In difficult times character shows. The way businesses approached the pandemic has much to say about who they are. For example, to support those who supported us, we offered to work at no cost to get through the difficult times together and while it was a short-term setback financially, it changed the relationship with our clients and showed what we stand for.
2. Be patient
Children are everything but patient and lockdown was the ultimate test for parents, who had to explain and help children get used to the restrictions. It included learning to be patient with our partners, balancing two careers, and explaining the background noise on video calls while trying to get rid of it. But no matter how many emails I typed one-handed while comforting a toddler, I will always look at this time and be grateful for the time spent together.
The unknown length of the virus and its impacts on the business meant learning to sit back, accept, and await what comes next.
3. Be creative and focus on your clients’ needs
With the limited opportunities for social contact and outdoor activities, playtime with the children got more imaginative, but also simpler. We turned everyday life into a series of adventures — from sleepovers (meaning I can go to bed at 8 pm) to set up our own restaurant since they were all closed. Having seen these adventures through my children’s eyes, I understood how creativity can change perceptions and create long-lasting memories, even in difficult times.
While none of us can manage a crisis, everyone can control and manage the response. With the speed of change, we quickly realized that relying on hope was a bad strategy: We approached difficult business situations with a creative mindset and we got better at keeping things simple. We stopped looking at ourselves and what we offer and focused instead on our clients and what they are looking for.
4. Be authentic and take care of your staff, clients, and suppliers
There is no better teacher of authenticity than children — they are genuine, they live the moment and show their emotions with no fear of failure. Children have a limited concept of time, they still refer to everything pre-lockdown as ‘yesterday’, bouncing back and getting on with life, only looking ahead with their new skills and experiences — just like we all can.
This crisis really has shown that we are all human. Even with the social distancing measures and digital communication replacing face to face interactions, people became more authentic. We’ve seen each other’s houses and children on video calls, with people less worried about their appearance. And during the last few months, I’ve learned that the key to taking care of business is caring for people — employees, clients, and suppliers. They are vital to the survival and growth of any business and looking after them will pay off in many ways.
5. Be ready to adapt and accept change
During the lockdown, I had to reschedule my work-life routine. I started getting up early and working before the children woke up, and as a result, I discovered that I’m most productive in the early morning hours — I’m sticking to this new habit in the long term. And I’ve also learned to prioritize what really matters so that I can spend some quality time with the children and run my business.
My open-minded approach and the willingness to adapt were crucial to the success of my business during the lockdown. Challenging times call for leaving comfort zones behind, making us do things that we used to fear. But once we make the first step out of that comfort zone, we find ourselves surrounded by new opportunities and perspectives —I am now a more confident and productive salesperson.