Here is a list of twelve things that I've learned as a mother of a special needs child that I have found to be true whether dealing with my son or working in my business. 

1. Complacency can be painful

Sometimes it's hard to see how NOT doing something can cause you pain.  Well, it can.  I have a 16  year old son with Smith-Magenis Syndrome and have learned that NOT paying attention, that sitting comfortably and watching a movie or reading a book can be painful.  In my house you never know when the next toy, plate, cup, or electronic device may take on a new life as a projectile. For those of you who may not have experience it, let me assure you these items can hurt, especially if you're comfortably ensconced in whatever you're doing.

The same holds true with business. You are comfortable with your place in the market.  You're communicating with your loyal customers. They are happy with what you provide. Things are going along smoothly.  You never saw it coming when that new startup came on the scene and your loyal customers are now theirs, your market share has plummeted and your offerings are behind the times.  Complacency can be painful.

2. Tone of voice matters.

How you say it cam matter so much more than what you say.  When I'm talking to my son and ask him in a sweet voice to get up in the morning I end up with him pulling the covers backover his head and promptly going back to sleep. When I pull the covers off him & tell him to get his butt moving,  I get movement (okay, some mornings it is him literally wiggling his butt, but it's movement.) And by the second, third, okay fifth time I state it, heactually does get up.

The same philosophy holds with business.  You can be sweet, you can be firm, but how you say things matters.  As a women, I've found sweet can get you dismissed as not being someone who should be taken seriously.  A firm and authoritative tone can produce better results, you may not be liked as much, but it's not a popularity contest when there is work to be done.

3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

It's easy to get caught up in what you are doing and not pay attention to what is going on around you.  Be it home or work,you need to be aware of your surroundings. In my house not paying attention can land you with a toy bouncing off your head (sounds funny - hurts like hell when it's one of those Fisher Price animal flashlights.  Actually, gave me a concussion.) 

In the workplace it can equate to the conversation you really shouldn't have or the one that was when someone else wasn't paying attention that you were there.  Either way, it can mean hurt feelings or the wrong people finding out about business plans/actions before they were supposed to. The consequences could be minor, or they could jeopardies your job because you weren't paying attention.

4. Situations can change at a moments notice

The day is going great, everyone is happily doing their thing, then it all falls apart.  Why?  Who knows. But that's the life of a special needs family.  Crisis can come at any moment and for no discernable reason.

The same thing happens in business.  You may have had an idea that although the company that bought yours out 6 months ago, and said nothing was going to change wasn't quite being on the level, you still got blindsided when they let you go with no notice.

5. Be prepared to leave if things go bad

Where:  The grocery store.  What:  flying frozen chicken wings… Time to go!

At work: if you start seeing things that make you question your organization's commitment to ethical business practices, you're not part of "in-crowd" in the office so you're never going to move up, You just get the feeling that something's not on the level… time to go.

6. While rules can be difficult to implement, not having structure can be hazardous

Okay, I'm not one for a lot of rules. But there are times when that structure is absolutely necessary.  At home - my son MUST sit in the passenger back seat.  He is absolutely NOT allowed in the front seat or behind the driver.  Why?  Hmmm.. From the front seat he's pulled the keys out of my ignition and thrown them into the woods (never found that set), put his foot into the windshield breaking it, grabbed my steering wheel, pulled my hair & destroyed my glasses.  He's also really good at doing those last two from the driver's side back seat.

In the office structure provides stability (just like at home).  Everyone knows when they are supposed to be there, for how long, and what is expected of them.  Without these basic rules and structures, your business could go under because no one was everywhere they were supposed to be & nothing ever got done, or clients are never able to reach you.  It may not be a literal car wreck, but it can still wreck a business.

7. Duck and cover

There are times the best option is to just duck & cover.   We've learned, there are time you just can'tget out of the way, or things are flying - duck & cover.  Most things can be replaced, but no one needsanother concussion!

At work - hopefully things aren't actually flying through the air (if so -- absolutely duck & cover!), but social politics can be just a dangerous.  If it's not an ethical, legal or moral situation & you are not involved - your best course of action could be to just duck & cover. 

8. Bring a change of clothes, probably two.

Having a teen who's not fully potty trained it an interesting situation, and one that taught me early - always bring a change of clothes for him & if you're going to be out for a while  you had better bring two!

At work, this isn't necessarily about having actual clothes (although, I can think of a few times that would have been useful), but more just about being prepared for any eventuality.

9. Some things just take a long time to accomplish

Boy is that the truth.  We've been working on potty training for 16 years.  We've been working on talking so others can understand for almost as long. We get some really good days on the potty front at school… they keep telling me it will eventually translate to home, but were at 16 years and counting… some thing just take a REALLY long time.

At work, some projects are just slow.  I've worked on websites, business reports, IS0 9000 compliance.  Some things just a lot of time.  Others that can seem more complex get done in a flash, but you just got to keep plugging along - eventually you'll get there.

10. Celebrate the small successes

Take joy in the little steps.  This morningwas an okay morning.  My son got up, tooka shower without too much banging around, had a really bad time when I told himit was too cold to wear shorts & again when it came to his deodorant, butpulled it together & got on the bus. I take this as an okay morning… hassome bad, had some good, but ended on a positive — I didn't have to take him toschool!!

At work - keep track of those little successes. Some time when you don't get the big win in can become frustrating.  You work & work & don't get the big one. This is why you write down and celebrate the small wins along theway.  When you look back you realize you are getting a whole lot more wins/successes that you originally thought. 

If we only focus on the big things we miss out on a lot of little joys along theway.

11. Stay calm in the chaos

When things are flying and everyone else is coming apart at the seams, if you can keep it together you can guide everyone back to the right path and smooth everything back out.

At home, this can sometimes be literal.  Sometimes it just that everything that can go wrong does.  Regardless, if you can be counted on to navigate through the storm, you'll get through it quicker and without as much destruction and loss as you could experience if you fell apart too.  Now, once everything is back on solid ground -- then you can have your break down. Yes, everyone looks at you like you're nuts, but hey you had the same emotional turmoil, you were just strong enough to get everyone through it before you broke.  I would recommend - for the office, wait till you're home, or at least alone.

12. Examine things with an eye to unintended uses

This has been a critical lesson.  Withchildren in general, but absolutely with special needs children (definitelywith mine) if it can be used in a manner it was not intended to be used in, itwill be.  My son looks at everything withconsideration of how it can be taken apart (and yes, he can take it apartwithout tools … brute strength is amazing), be used as a projectile and/orsomething to banged on or with.  Ittotally changes the way you look at gifts. A busy box… Nope that will hurt when it gets thrown at you.  A tablet? Hmmm, can it withstand being used as a Frisbee or beaten against a tableor his head?  (Just an FYI - Kindlessurvive the best.)

I the work environment.  Well, I create logos… Paying attention to the unintended is a must.  Too many logos end up having imagery that,well, wasn't what was intended.  You really need to make sure your images, products, copy all reflect what you REALLY want them to.  Take the time to have outsiders take a look, they may come back with a response that would horrify you if it made it to the outside world as a representation of your business.  On the flip side, look for new uses to what you've currently got.  Can a product you currently have served a different function?  A different market base? A product or service that you think is a dud, may be a star that's being directed to wrong audience.