It's True: You Love Your Business Like You Love Your Newborn


There’s a big shift that happens when you finally pony up the courage to leave your comfortable, full-time, often lucrative position in the pursuit of following your gut and your dreams. Creating your own company is one of the largest (and most impactful) leaps of faith you’ll ever take in your life, and stepping off that ledge into the vast unknown probably shook your spirit. But when you look back on those pivotal first days of creating your business plan, finding your first set of investors and buying that dot com, you likely have stars in your eyes, thinking of how much you’ve loved your company since the get-go.

To both your friends and your employees (and maybe your board), you lovingly refer to your business as your ‘baby’ - and that’s probably because it feels how you’d imagine being a parent feels. Even in the darkest hours (and with the late night phone calls and the carpal tunnel), you would do most anything to make your company successful. Why? It’s a calling and an innate passion inside of you. And nope, we’re not just talking in idioms here - it’s actually scientifically backed.

According to a recent study conducted at Aalto University in Finland, researchers discovered that entrepreneurs love their companies just like parents love their children. Published in the March 2017 edition of The Journal of Human Brain Mapping, scientists studied MRIs to compare the brain as it responds to seeing images of companies, versus children. (Though they tested men and fathers in this particular study, we’re sure the same is true for women - and if we had to guess, women might even love harder.)

While looking at sweet shots of their babes and then ones of their company, researchers were able to conclude that both entrepreneurial love and parental love impact the same region of the brain. This section is associated with high emotional processing and consideration, skills you'd need to have both to raise a business and to nurture a child.

Erin Motz, the co-founder of the yoga and lifestyle brand, Bad Yogi, relates, saying, “I don’t have children yet but I always swear by the fact that I do love my business like a child. It doesn’t matter what it does to me; it can make me lose sleep, wake up early, stay up late, eat too little because it makes me busy or eat too much because it makes me stressed. I don’t care if it throws up all over me, there’s nothing else I’d rather spend my time with.”

Erin Motz, Bad Yogi. Photo: Erin Motz

An interesting takeaway is just how much being motivated and inspired by love can put up blinders for you. When you’re engaging the part of your brain that encourages unconditional love, you also suppress the other area of your cognition that is critical and negative. In other words? You always think highly of your children… and ahem, that your business is the best. Even if, sometimes, that’s not always the most accurate portrayal of either.

As Melissa Fensterstock, founder of Aromaflage says, “As an entrepreneur, you must be aware that your creation may have faults and may need to pivot. Sometimes it takes an outsider with a fresh perspective to bring clarity to an emotionally charged situation."

Melissa Fensterstock. Photo: HBS

"While entrepreneurs must be optimistic almost to a fault," Fensterstock continues, "they must also take care to evaluate risk and execute decisions with a clear and unbiased mind.”

A tall order for both an entrepreneur and a parent. If you find yourself faced with tough choices, try to get an outsider's perspective - one who isn’t cradling your precious one day-in and day-out. Since you carefully took care of your baby when it was a heavily diapered and unpredictable newborn, having someone else to weigh in can offer the objective reality check you need. Remember to keep in mind that those maternal skills are still beneficial and well, part of the job description of the CEO.

“To say that I'm maternal and protective about Feastive would be an understatement. I don't actually have a baby so I can't really compare it to the real thing, but startups are all nurtured from an idea – the ‘embryo’ if you will – into an infancy that is both perilous and highly rewarding. Every day brings something new to the table, and there's a never-ending sense of worry paired with discovery that I imagine is just like having an actual child,” says Debbie Soo, founder of Feastive.com.

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
8min read

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.

When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.