Shermeena Rabbi: Happy families, better business



What is your most important partnership? For me, the most critical business relationship isn’t with suppliers, customers, or investors, but rather with my family.


We talk so much about synergies in business, yet we’re apt to forget that our families are our most important resource, providing succour, sanity and support in good times and bad. They are also, ultimately, the only reason why we do what we do – to provide us all with a better life.


The most important lesson I’ve learned in building my business while raising a young family is that it’s counterproductive to try to keep family and work entirely separate. But there will always be an element of “juggling” our business and home commitments, so here are my top tips for harnessing the power of your most important partnership.


A shared endeavour


Every happy family is alike: they are not groups of individuals but true teams that take their triumphs and disasters together. As an entrepreneur, you shouldn’t shoulder the weight of every worry, but ought instead to create a sense of shared family endeavour – what the business world calls “buy in”.


My family has been crucial to Unlocking Language’s success right from the start: from the support of my husband Mohammad, who’d take charge of the kids or cooking us dinner when I had important meetings, to grandparents who can help with babysitting. Make sure that your family knows that any help they can give is contributing directly to your shared success.


Communicate effectively


Every entrepreneur knows the dread feeling of guilt when they have to prioritise a business commitment over a family occasion. The best way to keep everybody happy is to be completely open with your family and communicate clearly. If you have to work late, tell your children and partner why you’re busy and let them know that you’ll make time for them soon.


A simple explanation and a word of thanks can do wonders. But be sure to listen to your family, too, since they are best placed to tell you when you’ve been working too hard and need to make time for the family – and for yourself.


Look after yourself


Being a new parent is a constant learning curve – and it’s a doubly-steep one when you throw a new business into the mix. It’s hard work and you will make plenty of mistakes, so it’s vital that you’re not too hard on yourself. Don’t dwell on your failures but reframe them as learning opportunities, and embrace every opportunity to learn and grow.


Take the time to look after your mental and physical health, and remember that it’s all about how business fits into your life, not how life fits around your business.


Prioritise the important


Having work and family tasks hanging over your head can cause serious stress, reducing your effectiveness in both spheres. Work out what needs to be done face-to-face and what can be done out of office hours, and then use your waking hours to carve out the time you need to stay constantly ahead of the game.


If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to say “no” more often. Walk away from anything that takes you away from your vision – both for your family and your business.


Finally, never forget that you’re running your business because of your family, not in spite of them. If you can always remember that they’re the most important part of your life and involve them as far as possible in your enterprise, you’re far more likely to have a happy family and a successful business.


By Shermeena Rabbi, Founder, Unlocking Language




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