When business babies meet actual babies: Navigating adland through parenthood

The Remarkables Group’s founder Lorraine Murphy reflects on navigating parenthood whilst running a company, including why blending is the new juggling and why a baby is the most effective productivity hack.

I had my firstborn child on the 16th May 2012. I called it The Remarkables Group.  

It was all-consuming. I thought about it all day and many times all night (due to excitement at times or deep, dark worry at others). I eagerly looked forward to its little milestones, and it dominated conversations with friends and family. Through it, I connected with new friends and we would spend hours comparing our business babies, trouble-shooting problems and coaching each other through the shit bits.

So what happens when a real baby comes along?  

On the 13th June this year, our little girl Alexis joined us. Getting the business to a place so I could take some time to be with her was a six-month process before her arrival.  

In February I brought a partner into the business with me (Natalie Giddings, formerly MD of Society Melbourne) and we embarked upon an intensive three-month plan to transition the reins over to her while I headed towards Baby Land.

Murphy and Giddings

After Lexi arrived, I stepped back from the business for three months and spent another month on a study tour in the UK, and have been back in the business now for two months.  

Many people have asked me how I’m finding the “juggle” of having a baby and a business, to which I reply that I’m instead “blending” the two. “Juggling” in my opinion is far too precarious and unachievable, whereas “blending” feels an awful lot more attainable.

There have been some pretty solid ‘aha’ moments over these few weeks of blending the business with a tiny human, and the similarities between developing each of them are uncanny.

It takes a team

I often advise up-and-coming entrepreneurs to build a rigorous external support structure around themselves, and to invest their time heavily in growing a strong team internally. Teamwork makes the dream work, etc.  

I have never seen this to be more true than now.  

From Natalie and team running the business during my “low touch” months, to my husband taking a day away from his business each week to take care of Lexi while I go to work, to our nanny driving Lexi to me in the office for feeds (while she got used to taking her bottle), it simply would not be possible without a team.

Shared values are everything

One of the major benefits to having your own business is that you get a say in who you work with – and you fast gravitate towards those with a shared value system to you. This has been even more patently clear since we became parents.  

When in London in September, I booked a series of meetings to find out about the local market there in order to bring learnings back to our team and clients in Australia, and flagged with each of them that I would have my little sidekick with me.  

One person’s response was not so positive, and it was a timely reminder again to be very selective with who I (and Lexi) spend our time with.  

‘I’d rather not meet’: The awkward email exchange (Click to enlarge)

The legendary Kat Thomas, founder of One Green Bean, reached out via my LinkedIn post on the incident and seamlessly filled the gap Lexi and I suddenly found in our schedule that week.

Thomas (left) happily took the meeting

Time must deliver an ROI

Time is our greatest asset, regardless of who we are or what our role is. In order to move businesses forward, it’s essential that our time is spent – as much as humanly possible – on the activities that will be for the highest and best good to that business.  

As such, I have always been conscious of where my time is going, so that what time I am spending on the business will have maximum return – be that securing revenue, building our profile or spending time with the team.

Becoming a parent has made me hyper-aware of where my time in the business is going. I’m currently spending three days a week in it, so if I’m going to devote an hour to something it simply must deliver on the ROI front. If it’s not moving the business forward then it simply doesn’t justify leaving my baby for it, in both in an emotional or financial sense.

Recently I was interstate for a speaking gig and had Lexi with me. I had a lunch in with a client for the day after the gig, so rather than flying back to Sydney the next morning, I booked an afternoon return flight. The client cancelled two hours before our meeting, meaning that whole day was wasted. Pre-baby that wouldn’t have had such an impact, whereas now when time is at such a premium that it really rankled.  

Short, focused bursts of productivity are more effective

We’ve all heard that tasks expand to take up the time allocated to them and there is tonnes of data to support the fact that when tasks are planned, they can be executed in half the time. I’ve been a sponge for productivity tips over the years, and faithfully knock over my Most Important Tasks (MITs) first every day for example.

I have never encountered a productivity hack quite as effective as a baby.

When I’m working at home, her naps are the start gun to a crazily-productive couple of hours, in which I’m firmly convinced I can get through the amount of work that would previously have taken me all day to complete. 

It has underlined to me again how important clear focus and a sense of urgency are to get shit done. I look in genuine wonder at the queue for the ping-pong table in our co-working space and marvel at all that free time those people must have.  

With a now five-month old, I’ve still got my training wheels on when it comes to this new gig. I have a feeling they’ll be on for quite a while yet… Especially when this tiny CEO has such a stellar track record in sudden changes of direction, sleeping on the job, highly vocal objections and hogging all the office milk.

Lorraine Murphy is founder and MD at The Remarkables Group


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