Are You a First-Born Business Owner?

By Chloe Quigley, Business Exit Planning Advisor

Your description: Detail-oriented. Organized. Hard driving. Compliant. A natural leader.

Confident. Conscientious. Careful. Perfectionistic.

It makes sense that you have built and developed a business. Perhaps growing up you took the role of caretaker for your younger siblings. You were given independence and responsibility. You’ve always been the responsible one. You appreciate structure and the natural hierarchy of things.

“You’re the oldest,” they told you.

Implied: You set the pace. You know the rules. You know more and better.

Recall: Did you ever feel like there was a critical eye, a higher standard for you?

This isn’t an intervention! The leadership of a first-born can be one of their greatest strengths. Presidents. Pilots. Professors. All majorly first-born children. In fact, research indicates that first-borns walk and talk earlier than later-borns.

First-born traits can help business owners succeed.

You were born to lead. And what better venture to lead than your own business? You may even find it simpler that navigating the dynamics of your own family. Or perhaps you’ve inevitably mixed the two in a family business, bringing your younger siblings or even children, nieces, or nephews into the picture.

Another quality of many first-born children is being exacting. Mistakes bother you. You fix those of others. And it’s almost always easier to just do it yourself.

What should you do if you fit the standard first-born business owner mold?

Reflect: Do you find yourself redoing the work of your employees, striving for perfection instead of excellence? Release: Dr. Kevin Leman shares in The Birth Order Book that there are three key objectives we strive for as humans: attention, power, revenge. As a business owner, what are your motives? Do you crave the praise of those who you love most? Or do you desire control and total reign over your business and employees?

As a first-born, (or perhaps second, third, or fourth-born) that resonates with these qualities, you can take a few simple steps to maximizing your natural skills and talents and leveraging those of your team.

Change the way you view perfectionism.

Perfectionism is a flaw. It may have helped you develop a high quality and competitive product or service. It may have helped you build out your team that works so well together. It may have offered you structure, and it may be your motivation. But perfectionism is a flaw. When you change how your idea of what you and your team should be striving for, excellence and their best, you open the door to ideation, trial and error, open communication, and trust.

Delegate what you can to those that are capable and wanting more responsibility.

Remember that annoying younger sibling that wanted to do everything you did? At some point, you knew when they finally caught up to you in height, they’d be ready to play catch with you in the backyard or swim in the pool with you and your friends.

The same goes in your business. Let them play catch. Let them hop in the pool. Delegate. That key person won’t do it exactly how you do it. This is a familiar story to you. But if you focus on outcomes (and with a little patience), you will have less on your plate and your business will be more transferable because of it.


There are many factors that drive who you are and where you fall in the birth order may be one of them. You may also be an only child, many of whom exhibit extreme iterations of these first-born qualities.

Take what you can from these bits of reason and reflect on how you are running your business. Who are you modeling yourself after? Did someone treat you or show you this way? And recall how you felt on the receiving end of it.

You are responsible, and your business is yet another thing that you care for. You are a steward of the work that lays ahead of you, the days that are done behind you, and the legacy to follow you. You are a leader.

But you don’t need to know all the answers. No leader does and the best seek help and guidance from those that have come and done before them. If you are a first-born business owner and are interested in how who you are affects the business you have made, reach out to our team today to schedule a conversation.

Chloe is a non-registered associate of Cetera Advisor Networks.

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