In my many endeavours to live a full and happy life, I decided to also follow my old desire to work with kids, whilst organising the first steps towards opening the bakery. While waiting for additional funding, I have enough spare time to dedicate myself to this activity as well. I learned a lot of business principles from this adventure.
So one day, almost immediately after posting my ad on a babysitting website, I came across a lovely family of entrepreneurs with whom I immediately bonded and we agreed on a short collaboration. For a whole month, I spent 3-4 hours a day, four days a week, with their five year-old son.
David is a very smart kid, with a strong personality and lots of energy. He’s also very sweet, well-spoken and not afraid to put me in my place if I do something he doesn’t like.
Here are the five things I learned and will most certainly apply in business.
1. The customer is always right
This is indeed an old saying, and everyone knows it, but it still was a test for me in terms of my inner discipline, flexibility and ability to ‘do as I am told’ 🙂 Which doesn’t necessarily come easy to me.
I have a strong personality, but when you’re babysitting, you are no longer in charge. Obviously you do keep your authority as a carer, but you don’t decide what the child eats, when they go to bed, whether they should be disciplined in certain situations. I am describing a healthy babysitting relationship, because psychologically, you cannot replace the parents just because you are taking care of the child. There are clear boundaries and you are more of a mature play buddy rather than the child’s parent.
So it doesn’t matter if you agree or not, you follow the rules the parents establish and, as David was quite independent already, the rules the child establishes. Luckily, I didn’t have any issues with this, but it just got me thinking that if I did, I could not even voice my opinion. That would be unprofessional and quite rude. Like telling your customers that if there’s something they don’t like about your product/service, they should go somewhere else.
Similarly to having a business, while you might like doing things YOUR way, you have to listed to your customers. You have to play by the rules they establish (if they are your target audience).
2. Variety, variety, variety
Daily, if not more than a few times a day, I had to switch it up and come up with a different game, activity, dance. I’ve never had to improvise this much in my life. But I think I did quite a good job. I loved it as much as he did, if not more. We would start our day by playing with Lego pieces, then start a battle between our spaceships run by dinosaurs, and end up building a fort between the sofas where only David could take shelter. And he would then come to destroy my army with his invisible powers. Talk about an exercise for the imagination!
One thing’s for sure. Kids get bored easily. So do customers. Make sure you keep a fresh feel about your brand, vary your menu or your product/service offerings.
3. The rules are always changing
This was my least favourite part. The moment I thought I got the hang of a game, the rules would change. If I was winning, the rules would change. If I wasn’t creative enough to add value to a game, the rules would change. Every day, the rules would chage! And I am someone that appreciates a well oiled mechanism that works well in its pleasing routine, she says poetically.
Not the case here. Nor will it be in business. Rules are always changing – whether there are new government procedures you need to implement, competition appearing over night, people leaving your business, things don’t stay uneventful for long. Get used to this, learn to adapt, don’t let change stress you out or get the better of you.
4. Keep them entertained
You guessed it. Kids like to be entertained. A lot. And I am not necessarily a clown, but I do know a thing or two about running indoors, playing air tennis
(by this I mean randomly hitting balls in the air, inside the house, while trying not to break anything), making funny faces, dancing and baking 😉 And this was very useful indeed while trying to earn David’s respect as a worthy play buddy.
The principle obviously applies in business, but under the umbrella of adding values, communicating on the same level with your audience and keeping them engaged through your activities (e.g. social media posts and campaigns, newsletters, offers, gifts, etc).
5. Distraction goes a long way
You’d be surprised to find out how MUCH you can accomplish by using distraction techniques with kids. I actually wasn’t aware of this, since I don’t have kids yet, but you can feed them, get them dressed, even do something that would usually annoy them. For David (and probably many children) the TV did the trick.
While it isn’t recommended to distract your customers as a way of tricking them, I think of distraction in business as packaging. 🙂
Yes, and you should admit it too, great packaging and product presentations go a long way. I will apply this ‘distraction’, but as a way of enhancing the value of my products, not as a way of hiding flaws or other negative issues.
There you have it. Five good ol’ business principles worthy of considering. Thank you, David
What about you guys? What else have you learned from working with kids