Having a "Preemie" Reminded Me of 3 Important Business Lessons

My wife is 225 days pregnant with our second child.

Why so specific?

The number 225 is important to me because our (my wife’s) first pregnancy lasted 223 days.  For those of you who don’t care to pull out a calculator right now, when your due date is determined it is assumed that you’ll make it roughly 280 days.  We’re in unchartered territory. 

Our son Collin was born at a gestational age of 31 weeks and 6 days.  He spent his first 6 weeks of life in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU) before being deemed ready to go home with his parents.  During this time, we made twice-daily trips across the city just so that we could change the occasional diaper and check our little guy’s temperature in advance of his 7:00am and 7:00pm feedings.  While our presence was expected, it was anything but necessary as far as his ongoing care went.

Just 30-minutes "old"

Just 30-minutes "old"

Don’t feel bad for us.  I’m not sure we would change a thing about this experience if given the opportunity to do so.  We saw first-hand what world-class newborn care looks like every time a new NICU nurse popped her head in the room to check on our son.  We became better prepared parents because of this experience. 

There is no way of knowing if we’ll deliver earlier than expected this time around, so we’re understandably a little on edge.  With this hovering in the back of my mind as I sat down to brainstorm blog topics for the week, I realized that the way I run my business and manage my own work/life balance has changed dramatically since Collin came in to the world.

Here are three basic yet important business lessons I’ve been continuously reminded of since experiencing a premature delivery and becoming a dad in general:

1. Things don’t always go according to plan

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

My first hold...

My first hold...

We got punched square in the mouth.  Plans had already been made.  We’d picked out the book that would serve as our manual for sleep-training our child.  We had not one, but two baby showers on the calendar during the two months leading up to our expected due date.  We even had flights booked to visit Florida for a “babymoon” in mid-March.

Instead, my wife had the rare opportunity to enjoy her first baby shower after our child was born.  We scrapped our sleep-training plans when we realized that the whole “start from day-one” concept doesn’t apply to parents who bring their child home on day-forty-two.  We even learned that JetBlue will call the labor & delivery department at your hospital to confirm the authenticity of your story before issuing a full flight reimbursement in a circumstance such as ours.

From the moment we arrived at the hospital to deliver our first child, until the day we left, every nurse or doctor we encountered reiterated the same message: “This is just going to be a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of your life as parents.” 

What felt like the end of the world at that moment ended up being just that – a blip on the radar. 

As an entrepreneur, you can expect to be metaphorically punched in the mouth.  I have written at length about the variety of problems you might encounter during the lifespan of your business, and each scenario covered can and should be temporary.  The sooner you come to terms with the notion that the past is the past, the closer you’ll be to creating a profitable future.

2. People will never forget how you made them feel

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

NICU Nurses are among the best people on earth.

NICU Nurses are among the best people on earth.

When you look at all of the fitness facilities currently in operation, all of the training models currently being implemented, and the variety of training philosophies in place, we all have one thing in common: we are in the business of customer service.  I can’t think of a better customer service experience in my lifetime than the one that the NICU nurses delivered on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and minute-by-minute basis back in the spring of 2014.

I can’t for the life of me remember the Otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) who checked Collin’s hearing when he was born.  I also don’t distinctly remember the face of the doctor who delivered my son.  What I can remember with absolutely clarity, however, are the faces of the nurses who put me at ease each time his heart rate dropped during a feeding.  I am forever grateful to the thoughtful ones who prepared creative images of Collin during the overnight shift so we could arrive each morning knowing that he’d been in good hands while we were gone.

The skilled doctors and technicians used their expensive equipment to perform similarly expensive procedures that I vaguely remember, but the nurses pulled together $0.50 worth of glitter and construction paper to create memories that continue to hang on the walls of my office to this day. 

Here’s the takeaway: It doesn’t take much effort or investment to make a lasting impact on your clients.  When all is said and done, they’re going to be more likely to remember the hand-written congratulatory note you gave them after accomplishing a fitness goal than the piece of fancy Keiser equipment they used to get them there.

3. Most of us have no idea how inefficient we are with our time

“Most of us become parents long before we have stopped being children.” – Mignon McLaughlin

"Uncle Eric" could teach us all a thing or two about efficiency now that he's got two rugrats of his own at home...

"Uncle Eric" could teach us all a thing or two about efficiency now that he's got two rugrats of his own at home...

For the first seven years that CSP was in business I showed up to train around 10:00am, took my sweet time over the next two hours completing a training session designed to take 75-90-minutes, and then started my work day as clients arrived at noon.  If I had to stay past “closing time” at 7:00pm to get my work done, so be it.  My wife worked a demanding job, so it wasn’t rare for one or both of us to get home an hour or two late a couple of times each week and not think anything of it.

When my son arrived, coming home an hour or two late meant not seeing him before bedtime.  It turns out Collin didn’t seem to care about the length of my professional to-do list…I quickly realized that time spent socializing with clients, watching viral YouTube videos, and messing around in general was keeping me from quality time with my family. 

Last summer I wrote about my decision to begin training exclusively during our busiest hours of the day.  One of my reasons for doing so was to make better use of the hours leading up to clients arriving at CSP:

“Have you ever heard the saying that every hour of sleep you can get before midnight is the equivalent to two after?  Well I am of the belief that every hour of work that I complete prior to noon is as productive as two completed after.”

After changing my training time and focusing on task completion every moment that I was on the clock, the list that used to take me seven hours to complete was suddenly executable in four or five.  Instead of scaling back on my output with the addition of new family responsibilities, I was able to keep up with my CSP tasks and launch my website, publish a weekly blog, and take on the occasional speaking engagement.

I owe my son a thank-you for forcing me to realize that I had a lot more productivity in the tank.  

Many lessons to come

We are two weeks away from our 9-year anniversary of opening CSP and I still occasionally feel like I have no idea what I am doing.  Parenting is very similar to running a business in the sense that as soon as you think you know what you’re doing, the rules and patterns unexpectedly change.  I’m looking forward to the next 9 years of twists and turns.

This family is about to get bigger.

This family is about to get bigger.