Take a moment to celebrate

Gary Pope, ceo and co-founder of KI, on how the triumphs, failures and resilience of the little guys move us all forward.

Apparently, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something.

I’ve been a parent for 20 years. 36 years if you add both my kids together.

So, that’s 315,360 hours, give or take, that I have been practicing being a parent. The thing is, I’m still not an expert.

No one teaches us to parent, do they? Yes, we can have role models, we can read books or watch a real ‘expert’ tell us how to do it on the telly, but no one actually can teach you how to parent your kids because you are you and your kids are your kids. They are not anyone else’s. Each child is unique and one size, especially in parenting technique, has never fitted all.

And unique is what makes the relationship between parents and their children such a fundamentally human thing. It’s as individual as it gets and yet it is also a thing that binds 89% of the people that walk the face of this Earth. The vast majority of us are blessed enough to become parents but we’re clueless as to what to do.

I am pretty sure that anyone reading this has always known what the rest of the world is getting their head around: the very first years of life are the most important. The experiences we have, the diet we consume and the love we receive are the software being written that is the operating system for our lives through adolescence and into adulthood.

The early years are the most important time of our children’s lives and yet this is exactly the time when we’re the least experienced as parents. The future of our species is perpetually in the sleep-deprived hearts and minds of people who have absolutely no idea whatsoever what they are doing.

But mother nature, evolutionary instinct and occasionally great preschool products intervene, and somehow we prevail.

Running your own business is a bit like being a parent. You’ve got no idea what you’re doing but you want to do it so badly and you really, really care. So much so that the sleepless nights, going without and putting others before yourself is just part of the job description. And slowly, if you’re really lucky, you start to work it out and you can even sometimes enjoy it. There’s a payoff, a validation, and as Maslow would say, a moment of ‘actualisation’. You did this and it (or they) works.

Last week the lovely team at Max Publishing was kind enough to invite me to the Progressive Preschool Awards. I got to sit at a table with some very nice people, have a lovely lunch, a good laugh and it reminded me of why I love being part of this brilliant industry.

But the most important thing I got to do was to see the reactions of the small business owners that won the awards. Yes, the big players won too with their multi-million-pound campaigns, product strategies, global leverage and super IPs. And rightly so, they make the world go around.

But the reactions of the little guys – the independent retailers and the very small designers and manufacturers – that have poured their entire self into their businesses was somehow different, almost magical. It might have been shock, it might have been disbelief, it might have been rapture, I don’t really know how to describe the air that each carried as they accepted their award; but I do know it really mattered to them.

It tends to be those little guys that take the risks. It is their triumphs, failures and resilience that move us all forward. From what I saw last week it seems to me that the world of preschool products, goods and services has a very bright future. And if we as an industry can play a small part in making a parent’s journey easier, better, more caring or simply less expensive, then we are making a very important contribution to those all-important first years of life.

Keep up the important work everyone.

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