Questions

What tips would you provide for existing entrepreneur who's about to become a father for the first time, and wants to continue growing their startup?

Do you have any time management tips, products I should buy, or support networks I should get in place? My wife's due in 6 months and I want to be prepared as much as possible. Only looking for answers from the #fatherpreneurs in the crowd.

11answers

I have a three year old and a six year old now, and a company that's only seven years old. I thought long and hard about what it took to be an entrepreneur of a new company along with a dad and I've definitely learned my lesson(s) over the years.

My biggest tips would be to make your workflow and business as mobile as possible. When my first daughter was born in 2007, the iPhone was brand new and the world of apps and even web apps that were functional on mobiles was pretty nascent. Over the years, that's definitely improved and I still gravitate towards services and products that allow me to run my business from my phone or tablet in the middle of ice cream runs or school pick up lines or doctor visits. Additionally, I was the only employee of my company at first, so it was easy for me to hunt and peck the right apps. But even in recent years, we've shifted our company to be very heavily focused on Google Drive and recently Basecamp because of their great integration across mobile platforms.

If you have employees or partners, lean on them and they'll be glad to help. If you're flying solo, look for ways to streamline your workflow and production process.

Of course, you don't want to be that dad at the soccer game or pre-school info session etc that's constantly on his device rather than being there in the "real world," so you have to really make sure to not let work and being an entrepreneur be your time stealer away from your kids and family as they'll need you more than ever in that first year and in the years to come.

It's hard, but it's worth it. My startup and my kids have grown up together. While my kids come first, they already recognize that "daddy's business" is a big part of our family and respect what I do because I made time to include them early on and engage them as much as I could in the work I was doing.

Good luck, and have fun... it's an amazing experience to be a simultaneous entrepreneur and dad.

TL;DR Don't be Don Draper.


Answered 9 years ago

It always makes me sad to see family relationships sacrificed on the altar of success. It is completely possible to continue building your startup while taking on the challenges of parenthood. Both are long-term commitments.

When I started my own entrepreneurial journey (1983), the number one entry on my personal mission statement was “Succeed at home first.” Every subsequent decision made about the business went through that filter. (I took my most recent start-up from 0 to $10M in 5 years without sacrificing my commitment to being a great parent to my two children so it can be done, if you have the right mindset and strategy. It's less about the tools and apps and more about your attitude and actions.)

There were 6 things I committed to doing that helped me achieve my mission. You might find them useful too.

Share your why. You started your business for a reason. Likely more than one. Make sure your family and loved ones know what’s driving your entrepreneurial spirit. Your wife will love you for it and your kids can handle it.

Share your ideas and vision. Your family can’t support you if they do not know what’s in your heart and mind. Make a conscious choice to include them by talking to them and asking for feedback. You can benefit from their unique insights and perspectives.

Share your realities openly and honestly. The demands of running a business often mean making hard choices. If there are going to be times when you must be absent or unpredictably unavailable, acknowledge the potential for disruption. Then commit to doing what you can to minimize or compensate for it in ways meaningful to your family. Concessions need to be a two-way street and time limited; negotiation is needed here.

Show sensitivity to your family’s needs and feelings. Don’t assume your limited participation in family life and activities is not having a negative impact. Ask. You can’t make the appropriate adjustments if you aren’t checking in on feelings now and then.

Show them you care as much about them as you do your business. When you are with your family be with them in all ways. That means be fully present, not divided in your attention. Have meeting free days and call free times when at home. Schedule time off for family fun. And if, for example, you must keep an eye on business while on a family vacation, set limits on the time you’ll spend checking in and stick to them. Unplug afterward so you won’t be tempted if necessary.

Share your success with your family. No one succeeds alone. Your achievements are your family’s achievements too. Celebrate your big wins with them, acknowledge their contributions and sacrifices and show them gratitude along the way. Never be too busy to share your affection and appreciation.

You won’t always be perfect at this. Perfection is not the goal. Let go of perfection and learn how to delegate. Loving your family (and significant others) as well as you love your work makes the success you attain a source of satisfaction and joy. It can’t be bought for any price and nothing else comes close.


Answered 9 years ago

I definitely concur with all of these answers, but I wanted to chime in to address the more immediate concerns which I learned with my first.

1. Now is the time to give your wife more attention than you ever have before. Every pregnancy is different, but no one argues that it is really freaking hard. Supporting your wife through what is some of the most physically demanding experiences (I mean the entire pregnancy, not just the birth) will pave the way to happier times in the future. Today she is fretting about things that you may not yet have begun to realize. At first I thought a lot of the concerns were petty (reading the books, going to classes, all the things we had to buy) but then I realized what a great opportunity there was to connect, love, respect and grow with my wife. Having your first baby puts a HUGE strain on your relationship, so building it up as much as you can before goes a long way.

2. Expect that the first 3-4 weeks are going to be a blur (with not much sleep at all). I don't even remember much from this time, I was so sleep deprived. Every baby is different, but there will be unexpected challenges. There always are. So in regards to business, find ways you can delegate responsibility to others you trust. If you can't delegate business responsibilities, find friends/family that you can trust to be there with your wife and the new baby for a couple hours each day that will free you to do what you need to do. You'll get really efficient and productive fast.

2b. Kind of an adjunct note to #2, a few fathers told me this and I'm so appreciative of it that I share it with every soon-to-be father I know: Your wife's hormones, emotions, and thoughts are going to go through absolute havoc, the likes of which no man will ever be able to fully empathize with. Just give her complete amnesty for about 3 weeks for anything she says or does. If she's distant, or says something hurtful to you, just tell yourself its the hormones talking. Chances are she won't remember later on what she said anyway. :) This little tidbit of advice shielded me from so much emotional turmoil, I can't even quantify it. (If it goes on more than a month though you should talk to her doctor. It could be postpartum depression, which is also incredibly normal.)

3. Finally, I agree with everyone else here who said in one way or another never to forget that your family is so much more important than your business. Of course it's true that you need to work and succeed to support your family, but the line between supporting them and distancing them can get really blurry if your values aren't clear. It is infinitely more rewarding to have a loving family than a big financial success. I was part of a startup that grossed over $100k in a few months, and I would rate that experience (on a 1-to-10 scale) at maybe a 3 compared to the full 10 joy I have at home just laughing and sharing love with my wife and daughter.

As far as suggestions on what products to buy... whew. That's a whole other email. I think the most important advice any man can get about this subject is on how to respond when your wife starts talking about this seemingly random $50-$250 item that you absolutely need to get to keep the baby safe. In that moment, remember that validating your wife's concerns is first and foremost. (The worst thing you can say is that you don't need X product she's talking about.) So validate the concern, talk with her about all the stuff she's learned about it, and then if/when the time comes to buy it, just be really open about the budget. The same mother-bear instinct that researches which rear-facing, up-to-3-months, 5-point restraint system, 5-star safety rated car seat to buy (and there are hundreds) is the exact same instinct that kicks in to make sure there's enough money to put all-organic, hormone-free food on the table. You may want to shoot yourself when your wife asks WHICH of the 30 types of bottle systems you think you should buy, but remember it's a great chance to connect with her on something that she's feeling very deeply concerned about.

That said, here's some specific things that worked for us:
http://www.nickisdiapers.com/ - Amazing site to cloth diapers. We saved thousands by not using disposable diapers.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/mom/signup - Totally freaking cool discounts that Amazon gives to new moms.

Me being the total tech geek, I want this for my next kid: http://mimobaby.com/

Good luck!


Answered 9 years ago

Find a way to work from home it will full fill you so much your creativity will rocket.
The first years are so precious you can not miss them.
I did it and If i died today I would be complete
David Chalk


Answered 9 years ago

Steve Blank wrote quite eloquently about how he handled juggling multiple startups and a family here: http://steveblank.com/2009/06/18/epitaph-for-an-entrepreneur/. Though he explicitly claims it's not advice, I can safely say I wish I would have known a sage like him when I was juggling a startup in one hand and a baby in the other!


Answered 9 years ago

Here's a project from a past client of mine. His Dadverb podcast series now has about a dozen interviews with successful entrepreneurs who juggle business and fatherhood:

soundcloud.com/dadverb


Answered 9 years ago

The fact that you are asking means you likely already have your values worked out.
Some tips (and BTW - I have 2 kids currently 6 and 9 and I started several ventures between 2005 and today):
1. Create Boundaries
Block off time for business related activities versus family time. And adhere to them.
2. Be Efficient
Eliminate time wasters and focus on your most important activities only. Delegate the rest (assuming you have someone to delegate to - if you don't then hire a part time assistant... money very well spent!)
3. Exercise and eat healthy foods
With the very likely sleep deprivation you're about to experience you'll need every advantage you can get to stay sharp. Poor fitness levels and a crappy diet will kill you! Short (20 minute) high intensity workouts and simple clean eating are the way to go.

A great resource for time management is Dan Sullivan's "The Time Breakthrough" http://private.strategiccoach.com/store/products/16

Congratulations and best of luck to you!


Answered 9 years ago

Most people told me I would be a wreck as soon as my son was born so, I’d better get used to lack of sleep and being disheveled. Hearing this “advice”, I wanted to ensure I would be able to focus on both my professional life and on becoming a first time dad, falling in love with my son and being available to enjoy these precious early days with my wife and Koan, as well as doubling the size of my business.

Koan is now one year Old. Here are my thoughts:

Lesson One: Be clear
Be clear of how you want your first year to be with your child. Being a startup founder, you get to choose. Set the times you want to be with him/her, and really enjoy the early months. Be there fully with your baby. It goes super fast, and you won't want to miss it. When you are not with your child, use their energy, wonder and aliveness to carry you to do your best work.

Lesson Two: Know your job. (as a founder and a dad)
As a startup founder it’s critical to know why you do what you do and why your company does what it does. Same goes for being a dad. Take some time and see how you want to merge the two, share this with your wife (by example and words) you will have be able to create your life at home and at work.

Lesson Three: Adapt or die
My wife and I knew our lives would change (a lot) when Koan was born, so we adapted our mindsets before he arrived. We knew sleep would be at a premium, so I now go to sleep early so I can be woken to change him in the middle of the night, and not be a zombie the next day. I then take care of him early morning so my wife can catch up on her sleep. We’ve prepared ourselves to work wiser, not harder. We now get far more done in less time. We’re also much kinder to each other. I’ve been told this is not always the case. Many couples unravel because of the pressures that come with a newborn.

If you would like to talk about how I came to grips with my first year with Koan, doubling the size of my business and learning how to create real balance, not the stuff they talk about on tv... give me a call.


Answered 9 years ago

Hey,

I am a father of 5 children, the youngest 5 months and the oldest 8 years.

During this time, I started my own company 3 years ago. I have also recently been working on a new product that is just about to be released to market. 2 months ago, my 5 year old was diagnosed with Leukaemia (don't worry, he is doing fine), This involves spending a bunch of time in the hospital with him etc.. I know a bunch about managing a family while running a business. Some of my tricks:
- I choose to work with people who also understand the important of family time
- I work hard, but play hard too, happy to work 18 hours straight. But also expect to be able to turn off completely when needed.
- Manage people expectations. Book meetings and never miss them, not even 1 minute late. But if your workmate/client downs
- I work from home most of the time, so can quickly go inside and read the kids a quick story or drink a glass of wine with my wife.
- I use Asana, a great project management tool to run my business. I turn off notifications and when I have time to focus, I can process all tasks for all the projects I am working on.
- I am passionate about what I do, and somehow have been able to convince my wife in the same. I suppose without this point, you might have an issue. You need to be able to justify that spending some time away from the family is worth it.
- Realize that the first year is going to be pretty hectic, but you are not as important and needed as your would like to think you are. With all my kids, my deeper relationship kicked in from the age of 2 and above when I could take them to all sorts of cool places.
- Some advice for later. Keep sunday free for just family time, and take the kids to cool places!


Answered 9 years ago

I've been involved with startups for almost 20 years and became a single father after my wife passed from cancer 5 years ago. I believe that being an entrepreneur and dedicated father requires management of priorities and opportunities rather than time. We all have the same amount of time in a day (24 hours!), it's what we do with the time that matters and that requires putting your priorities in line. For me, my top priority is my son, so my business decisions revolve around him.

These decisions include: when I'm available for calls, what activities I perform versus being outsourced, what times during the day/week do I work versus being with my son.

Here are some of my tips:
1. Work from home as much as possible but make sure you completely shut off work for family time.
2. Use cloud-based tools as much as possible - what you need will depend on your business. I do almost all my work in the cloud including website management, accounting, doc sharing, project management, video conferencing, etc. Examples of these include Zoho, Dropbox, Skydrive, SugarSync, Google Apps.
3. If working from home, get a separate work phone number such as with Google Voice.
4. Manage your opportunities - as an entrepreneur and someone who wants to grow his business, you may be tempted to go after every opportunity. Focus on those opportunities that fit your business and your interests the most. This may mean saying 'no' to some opportunities that come your way.
5. Enlist advisors and helpers for your business - if you don't already have advisors or employees/contractors that can help in growing your business, now is the time to look into such help. Just make sure these people can truly contribute, are trustworthy, and, ideally, be rather independent and not require too much of your time.

Good luck and congratulations on becoming a father. It's the best job you'll ever have.
Feel free to get in touch if you need more details on how I run my businesses and still be a dedicated father.
Gareth.


Answered 9 years ago

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