What I learned about entrepreneurship from my mother

Founders can learn many lessons from their mothers when bringing up their own 'babies'

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, May 28, 2020.  A mother and her kids take a walk as the sun sets at the Corniche-Marina Mall pathway, Abu Dhabi.
Victor Besa  / The National
Section:  Standalone / Stock

Almost every entrepreneur would tell you that starting a business is no walk in the park. When I started my first venture, I kissed sleep goodbye and worry took a front seat in my life. I would check in on its performance all the time and stay up late at night looking after it, thinking how I could develop it.

My mother often joked and referred to it as my baby and would celebrate its milestones with me, just like she did with my siblings and I when we were little. As the world fights the pandemic, we see that just like frontline heroes, mothers play a significant role in caring for their families, protecting their households, contributing to their economy and keeping their communities safe.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day in the Arab world today, I reflect on what my mother, and other mothers, have taught me. Though managing a business could not be compared to the effort and dedication that mothers put into raising and caring for their children, there are valuable lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from their mothers and apply to their businesses.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from my mother is patience. I started my first official venture as soon I graduated from university and I was young and impatient. I still recall how discouraged I felt when my business didn’t make any profit in its first month. I wanted to quit and felt like a failure.

But it was my mother who inspired me to be patient. She told me that I had planted the seeds and, just like plants, my business now needs nurturing, care and love for it to grow. That advice changed my perception and I knew that patience was key. Soon after, I enjoyed the fruits of my labour.

Since many entrepreneurs live in a fast-paced world, they tend to believe that they have failed if things take longer than expected. Be patient. Another business of mine took two years for me to witness results, and for other industries it may take longer. But keeping that fact in mind will help you stay calm and focused.

If there is one thing that mothers do best, it’s multi-tasking. I remember at some points my mother would be cooking and teaching us at the same time. Multi-tasking is an important skill to have as an entrepreneur. It helps you to be efficient and save time. When the pandemic hit last year, my team and I had to adapt, multi-task and take on extra responsibilities. Doing so helped us save our business from the negative effects of the pandemic.

This leads us to the importance of empathy, especially when working with a team.

My mother taught me that you should be empathetic towards your people and that you rise together as a family unit. Just as she looked after us and always put herself in our shoes to understand what frustrated us, entrepreneurs need to take care of their team, to put themselves in their customers’ shoes and to try to see the situation from another person’s perspective. Not only will that mean that the team and your customers will be happier, but you save time and money wasted on a problem that would otherwise linger longer than it should.

Last, but not least, my mother taught me that there are many other doors that open if one shuts. When we refused to eat our vegetables or go to bed early, she didn’t take no for an answer and looked for creative ways to achieve her goals. Don’t be discouraged when one door closes. Often, you will find not one, but several ways to achieve your goals.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi