Starting My Business Prepared Me For Parenting
Every year, we invite people to sign up for the Wise Women’s Council, a leadership incubator for women that are parents while also entrepreneurs, leaders, and business founders. One of the most supportive tools we have in leadership and parenting are the relationships and community that support us. This year, we’re featuring members of the Wise Women’s Council in an interview series on our blog so you can get to know more amazing parents and business owners in the world.
This week, I want to introduce you to Michelle Florendo, a decision engineer and coach for Type-A professionals. Michelle has been in the Wise Women’s Council since it’s inaugural year, and is now a coach with us here at Startup Parent. She has a BS in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, and an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
Michelle uses a blend of decision engineering, systems thinking, and lean startup principles to help her clients map their path forward. She is also the host of the podcast Ask A Decision Engineer, where she unpacks how to tackle complex decisions with less stress and more clarity.
Here’s our interview.
What time did you wake up this morning and what was the first thing you did?
Today I didn’t wake up until 6:30am, which almost felt like sleeping in, to the sound of my son coming through the bedroom door. (For the past 6 years I haven’t needed an alarm because my kids are always the ones who wake me up.) The first thing I did was lift up the blanket so that he could crawl in next to me. As I scooted over to make room for him, I backed into my husband who had already scooted over from his side to make room for our 3 year old daughter. I love these morning moments cuddling with my whole family in one bed.
How many actual work hours do you have to do your work in any given week? (Give us your best estimate).
I usually have childcare from 9am to 3:30 or 4:30pm, depending on the weekday. Often I also have a couple hours to myself on Saturday mornings when my partner takes the kids to kung fu. I don’t spend all those hours working since I also need to use that time for errands or my own medical appointments. My best estimate is that I typically work 25-35 hours a week, except when I’m teaching my decision making class for Stanford Continuing Studies, which adds 5 evening hours each week while it’s in session.
Give us a glimpse into your parenting journey: what’s it like right now? What have been some of the more challenging parts and what has surprised you?
I feel I’m on the precipice of a new season of my parenting journey. The age 0-5 phase is so physically exhausting! On some level I expected that I would have less time for myself and my work, but I was unprepared for the magnitude of impact it would have on my mental capacity and productivity even when I did have time for myself. I have learned to how to adapt and find ways to move my work forward in the small slices of time I have. I even recorded and edited Season 2 of my podcast in 5-10 minute increments! I am looking forward to continuing to turn the dial up on my work as my kids become more independent and my younger one finally enters the wipe-her-own-butt phase!
If you could go back and give yourself any advice about parenting, what would it be?
Be a satisficer, not a maximizer. What can you let go of in this moment?
How has parenting changed you? How has business changed you?
You know what, I think starting my business really prepared me for parenting. I am a planner. I like to think through what are my goals, how will I get there, and not only what is Plan A, but also Plan B, C, and so forth. I remember in the early stages of my business, I wrote up a business plan and created all of these financial models and then had to be willing to throw those things out the window to meet the realities and opportunities that came along real-time. The repeated practice of loosening my grip on “the plan” and instead light hold an intention the future, then adapt to what was really happening, is something that has helped me reduce my stress and be more present to moments of joy in parenting.
If you could go back and give yourself any advice about entrepreneurship, leadership, or business, what would it be?
Whenever you feel the prickliness of fear or concern for risk, keep getting curious about what’s at the root and whether that’s aligned with your objectives. I did a good job at this when making the macrodecision to start my business. I am a risk averse person, and entrepreneurship can sometimes be financially risky, but one of my core objectives was to create an option where I could still do meaningful work in my career while mothering the way I wanted to when my kids were 0-5 years old.
With that objective in mind, not starting my business, even if it failed, was the riskier option since I already knew I couldn’t fulfill that objective with the existing options I had. Now, I’m working on remembering my objectives in my daily microdecisions. Building a public body of work activates a bit of fear in me — “What will people think?” “What if people don’t find what I have to say useful?” — However, I’d much rather risk some people not liking my content than risk a future where the people who need and want to hear from me never do.
Please share a specific area of expertise that is really useful for our audience. What is a skill, tip, or teachable tool that you’d like to share?
Most people use the pro-con list the wrong way. Its purpose is not to help you come to a decision, but rather to help you articulate what matters to you in the decision.
Try the pro-con list with a twist:
- Draw a horizontal line across a piece of paper.
- On the left-hand side, write the labels “attractive” above the line and “concerning” below the line. “Attractive” and “concerning” are better than “pro” and “con” because it allows you to capture feelings in addition to your thoughts, which are an equally important source of data.
- Start listing what’s attractive and concerning about one of your options above and below the line. Repeat for each option or scenario that comes to mind.
- Once you’re done, look for key themes in what came up for you. Those key themes are your objectives, i.e. the criteria you should use for evaluating your options.
Give us 3 tools, parent hacks, or business hacks that have really helped you.
Airplane busy box: I forget where I learned this, but every time our family has to travel on a long flight, I pack a small container with painter’s tape, post-its, crayons, and Wikki Stix, and it keeps my kids entertained for HOURS.
Tiago Forte’s Building A Second Brain: I don’t know how I survived so many years of “mommy brain” without his system for capturing and organizing information in a place outside my physical brain so that I could retrieve it quickly when I need it.
Every talk you’ve hosted by Michelle Warner in WWC: the frameworks and wisdom she shares has helped me learn where to focus my time and energy in my business.
Learn more about the Wise Women’s Council and apply to join our annual leadership community. We open in January every year for membership.
Michelle Florendo is a decision engineer and coach for Type-A professionals. She is passionate about helping leaders make decisions with intention: people make decisions with intention, from the small consistent microdecisions over time that govern how they show up as leaders, to the big macrodecisions they make about what direction to take next in business or life.
The Startup Parent Podcast
The Startup Parent Podcast — Episode #001
No matter how much prep work you do, there is no way to anticipate the experience of having a baby or starting a business. Dismayed by the flawed narratives and tropes around pregnancy and motherhood, I set out to interview real people about the honest truth of motherhood, parenting, and building businesses (or careers). Here’s where it all started.
ABOUT THE STARTUP PARENT PODCAST
If you're growing a business, leading a team, or figuring out entrepreneurship and you have kids, this podcast is for you. We go in-depth with founders and entrepreneurial parents about what it really takes to have babies, grow businesses, and get a little bit of sleep. Sign up for the newsletter to get new episodes in your inbox. And leave us a review on iTunes.