Entrepreneur Life

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What is the #1 piece of advice you would give an entrepreneur who is about to be a parent on how to balance those two worlds?

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Give yourself, your spouse, and your family grace! The first six to twelve months of your little one(s) are crazy. (If they’re not, stop reading now and go buy a lottery ticket, you’re a unicorn).

Being an entrepreneur, I’m assuming you’re very goal and results driven. Your ability to execute on that drive is going to change. Give yourself grace with this and your timeline for success. What will honestly matter the most 30 years from now is your relationship with your spouse and your kids. Letting go slightly of the drive is an “ok” and good thing. Replace it with “being present” and “being engaged” with your family. You won’t get a do-over. Still, work towards your goals, but it may be at a slightly slower than your used to pace.

The most important thing is not getting too sucked into work to be available as a parent. Work will always be there for you to get absorbed into, but you only have so much time to spend with family, don’t sacrifice it for anything.

For me personally, I try to maintain balance by coming out of my office and talking to my wife and playing video games with the kids as much as I can in between meetings and other tasks. It helps refresh my mind but also gives me some time with the family that I wouldn’t otherwise have. It helps that my office is steps from where they are every day.

Systemize your business.

Before my first kid was born, I worked like mad to have processes in place for everything. It was tough, but it paid off on days when I didn’t get enough sleep and even 3 cans of Vanilla Coke didn’t help. Everything I needed to do at work was organized and ready for me to take action.

I think that it is important to define the balance you require at any given time as it will vary throughout your child’s life. You need to make sure to honor the roles you have as entrepreneur, spouse, and parent appropriately for yourself and your family.

I was so lucky to be able to have our daughter with me at our office for the first three years of her life. I will say that one aspect of having our daughter able to grow up in our business provided us, as a family, a whole different level of communication. Our conversations, especially now that she is an adult, encompass so many interesting topics which affect our business and allows each of us a different perspective. Working together also allows us to have so many more treasured moments. Even though we work together, we are able to share with one another our days, which is so important.

Sometimes, merging the business with family cannot be avoided – that is the joy of being an entrepreneur and allowing the moments to be created.

Exhaustion comes in multiple forms. You are guaranteed to experience physical exhaustion in the early days of parenthood. But you may also experience mental exhaustion, where the things that kept your mind spinning prior to having a family no longer do so.

I would advise you to reward your physical exhaustion with rest, even when you feel like it is not in your business’s best interest. If you don’t, you will be more likely to hit mental exhaustion, and the pain of it will be worse than if you took the rest.

You have to take care of family and business; but when you bring your family into the mix, you can’t burn the candle at both ends quite the same way like you may be accustomed to. Take care of yourself, your family, and allow your business routines to fit nicely into your new life — don’t try to force your new life into your old business routines.

I have four kids ages 4 – 15. My personal habit is to do my best to keep nights open for kids activities and family dinners. I structure my day to have a hard stop at 5:00 pm. If work demands more of my time, I can tune back in after the kids are down, but really I would prefer to get up as early as needed to get stuff done. Although it is VERY RARE, I have gotten up at 3:30 to get caught up on work. My feeling is that working while my family is sleeping is better than missing the opportunities to connect with them at night.

I see balance (and the idea of entrepreneur/parent balance) not as a constant state that can be achieved, but rather a healthy tension that exists between two beautiful and amazing things that you love. There are times when the business requirements demand more time/attention (ex: business travel, unexpected change in leadership team, product/service launch, etc). There are also times when your family will demand more time/attention (ex: illness, beginning of school, end of school, sporting events, vacation, etc). I strive to ensure the extremes of one or another are balanced. For example, if I’m away from home on business travel for a week, the week before/after, I am intentional about scheduling 1:1 time with each of my children and my husband. Whether it’s volunteering in a classroom, catching a movie, shopping for a book we can read together, sharing an ice cream cone, taking a walk, or just letting them choose how they want to spend the time, being intentional about making the time to spend time with the family makes them feel valued and important, even when I’m not there. Likewise, if a school trip, illness or vacation takes me away from work for an extended period of time, working ahead to tie up loose ends, reschedule/cancel/delegate meetings that will occur while I’m gone, on return check in with the leadership team to make sure I’m up to speed on everything before I jump back in and to sincerely appreciate and thank the people that covered for me, allows me to take the time with family and not feel overly pressured that I should be working. All of that said, giving yourself permission to say no to work or family obligations that don’t fit in to the schedule or won’t provide a feeling of value to either party and grace when it something doesn’t work as you expected it to (on either side) will also go a long way toward feeling fulfilled and successful in both roles.

When I became a father, my business (my first baby) was in a good place. I tell people my busiess is now in kindergarten and under “adult supervision.” So the timing was really good to be able to focus less time and energy on my business than I did in the startup years and to shift that focus more to my children and family for a nice balance.

I have more time and energy constraints now as an entrepreneur and father, which I think is actually a very good thing. I have obsessive and workaholic tendencies and now I simply can’t (or won’t) do the things I did in the beginning, which gives me such a better perspective on life.

I’ve been able to focus on empowering and mentoring others in the business to do some of the things I frankly shouldn’t have been doing. I prioritize my time and energy so much better now.

The biggest thing I struggle with now is taking off my CEO hat when I get in the door at night and putting on the “Daddy” hat. It’s been a frustrating struggle, honestly. I’ve spent so much of the last 9 years being the leader, the one people look to, working with a team of adults and professionals, being able to give direction and know it’ll be done, that I have to reset my mindset when I’m home. I’m so much more of a caregiver, a teacher, a listener at home, but it’s also helped with business.

Patience is truly a virtue. And one I’m continually working on.

Always err on the side of family. As an entrepreneur, I can work 24/7. Not a good idea. While the work adventure can be mind/emotion addictive, it should not define the value of family relationships

I started by asking myself which was most important. For me it was the kid. That meant making sure I was first a Dad and, because a healthy family is key to raising a child, a supportive spouse. That doesn’t mean I didn’t fully commit to the business at times but it did mean that I kept those periods short and infrequent. It also meant giving up things that were unrelated to either the family or business and sucked time. Every kid, spouse & entrepreneur are going to be different and you have to find your way based on the situation you’re in. For me, ensuring I knew what were the priorities made things easier to manage.