A few months ago, my life changed in a big way: I became a mom for the first time. The last few months have brought with them a lot of diapers, a lot of emotions, a lot of new experiences… and not a lot of sleep! I wondered, when I sat down to write my first post for the Staples Business Advantage blog upon returning, what I'd have to write about. And it occurred to me that I have new respect, admiration and gratitude for the people, both at my company and at all our customers' companies, who keep a business running smoothly. Because, even down to cleaning up messes and losing sleep, running a business has some surprising similarities to those first few, frenetic months of parenthood.
Sound crazy? Well, of course it does. I am sleep deprived, remember?
Dear Facilities Managers:
How can one tiny human make so many messes? And how do you manage to keep an entire building full of big humans spotless?! I'm guessing you don't employ my "if I can't see it, it doesn't exist" technique. And safety? I was paralyzed by fear for weeks trying to figure out how to keep a baby safe, and he's not even mobile yet. Kudos for keeping entire offices of ambulatory, distracted, busy people safe. Now, do you have any tips on getting stains off of baseboards?
Dear Procurement Officers:
Okay, stocking up is not as easy as I thought. Have you seen how many diaper choices there are, and how much they cost? Price, quality, quantity… comparison shopping between brands was hard enough, but then comparing among stores added a level of complexity my addled brain wasn't ready for. I could have used the power of a purchasing pro in my corner so I wasn't tempted to just close my eyes and point.
Dear IT Experts:
One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was try to figure out what my child needed based on his very—very—limited communication skills. In the only way he knew how, he was constantly asking me to JUST FIX IT! I just had to figure out what "it" was. Sound familiar? You keep the tech (and your colleagues) working, all while people call you with problems they can't quite describe. JUST FIX IT… and you're left to translate what it is. Polish up your decoder ring and give yourself a pat on the back.
Dear Marketing Managers:
As a marketing professional, this is a job I know well. Never did I dream of applying it to my child. But with every email sent, every snapshot taken, you start to think about your audience and your perception. Wait, is that outfit from my mom? Did I take one of him in the outfit from my mother-in-law? Thankfully, the cuteness of a baby helps smooth over any communications faux pas. May your target audience never be as exacting as family.
Dear Office Administrators:
You understand me better than anyone else on this list, I think. You organize, you schedule, you troubleshoot, you smooth ruffled feathers and salve wounded egos. You know where everything is and when everything has to happen. You manage unrealistic expectations and perform absurd tasks. You stock and/or make the coffee… and right now, on my four hours of sleep, I LOVE the coffee. And you do all of these things wearing something more professional than pants with spit-up stains and stretchy waistbands. Truly admirable.
Even without the lens of parenthood, it's not difficult to see all the hard work that goes into keeping an office running smoothly… if we just stop and think about it. But part of the challenge of today's fast-paced work is finding the time to slow down, look around and say thanks for the hard work your colleagues are doing, and to pat yourself on the back, as well! So thanks for all you do… now pass it along to someone who could use the pick-me-up.
Photo credit: Shannon Hart-Reed