How to Raise a Teenage Business
I remember when QIP was a newborn. I wanted to introduce it to the world much like I had my real children, as though “Quality,” “Information,” and “Partners” were first, middle, and last names and “QIP” was a cute nickname.
I know QIP isn’t a person and raising a “teenage business” isn’t the same as raising a teenage human — after all, QIP doesn’t consume enormous amounts of cereal every afternoon — but there are some guiding principles that apply to both.
For example, raising a teenage business and raising a teenage person both require that you don’t get stuck in the past, no matter how much you enjoyed the good ol’ days. Sure, it was wonderful to develop our logo, hire our first staff members, and win our first contract. But, like holding my kids’ hands while crossing the street, those days are gone — or so my children Emma, Paul, and Lizzie tell me. While we cherish the past, we can’t live there anymore. And, whether raising teenage children or a teenage business, we must embrace the present while building the future.
This isn’t the only parenting strategy that seems relevant as my business partner, Beth Young, and I help our teenage business mature. Other tried-and-true approaches:
- Be present and actively engaged. Otherwise you’re going to miss opportunities to fully participate in the life of your teenager. With all of its ups and downs, it is where you need to be.
- Set clear expectations. Communicate clearly your expectations about processes, outcomes, values, and behavior.
- Keep your standards high. Just because we’ve been successful thus far doesn’t guarantee success in the future. A parent’s work is never done.
- Keep emphasizing your values. The outside world will try to imprint its values on your teen. Some of those values will conflict with what you believe, so never stop highlighting why our values matter.
- Accept that peers will have a strong influence on your teen. Teenagers spend more time with peers than their parents, and much of a growing corporation's business happens away from the founders. At QIP, we collaborate with partners and colleagues who contribute positively to the organization's development.
- Expect your teen to keep their word. We can’t develop healthy relationships with others unless we respect ourselves enough to know that our handshake should mean something.
- Stay calm in the face of adversity. Even in the best of scenarios there are bound to be trials along the way. Your experience will help your teen deal with challenges in a healthy and effective manner.
- Forgive generously. No one, much less a teen, is perfect. If we are going to have a healthy relationship, we need to forgive each other for our shortcomings early and often.
- Stress the wellbeing of the whole self. At QIP we refer to it as work-life balance, but whatever it is called, your teenager can avoid burnout by committing a portion of every day to unplugging from technology and responsibilities in order to sustain high-quality performance and productivity over the long term.
- Let your teen know when you are proud of who they are becoming. It isn’t easy to succeed in business, and it is doubly difficult to do so ethically and with integrity, so when you are proud of your teen’s achievements, say so frequently and in no uncertain terms.
Parents sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we can completely control how our kids turn out, but it isn’t that simple. Rather than following a blueprint designed to create new versions of ourselves, parents are responsible for helping our teens turn into the unique people they are meant to become. We can guide their development only so much.
I think of QIP in a similar light. Beth and I apply the principles above but then trust that QIP—our staff from left to right and top to bottom—has been “raised” to make ethical choices, treat colleagues and clients with respect, and deliver quality in every job we undertake.
I am fortunate to be proud of how my own children have grown up to this point, and I am thrilled to say the same about QIP. I hope that our teenage business will continue to mature in a manner that proves a small business can be successful while behaving ethically and being a company where good people can do meaningful work for great clients and partners.
We welcome QIP’s 15th anniversary and can’t wait to see how our teenage business continues to mature in the years to come.
Tom Szuba, Co-Founder and Vice President of QIP, possesses extensive data system, communications, management, and consulting experience—including website communications and content strategy, as well as data standards, indicators, information security, and data ethics.