The Surprising Ways Fatherhood Makes Me a Better Entrepreneur
Tell people you’re about to become a parent and you’ll get bombarded with warnings:
Your life will never be the same.
Sleep as much as you can now; you don’t know when you’ll get a full night’s sleep again.
Babies are cute. Good luck!
Related: 6 Ways to Be a Better Parent
People make it sound like you can’t be a good parent and run a successful business. Do entrepreneurs really have to make an impossible choice?
When my daughter turned 1, I looked back and made a striking realization: The year she was born was also the most successful year for my business to date.
I think it’s because I did almost the opposite of what other entrepreneurs do when they become parents for the first time.
How do most entrepreneurs juggle business and parenthood? (Which doesn’t work.)
They change their priorities.
New entrepreneur parents make the baby their top priority—as it should be. They either cut their work hours, or take time off entirely from their business. Either way, the business becomes less important. The problem with this is that it puts business and family at odds with each other. This creates conflict in the entrepreneur’s heart and mind, and eventually chaos as we struggle to keep everything in balance, which we never can.
They draw a distinct line between work and family life.
They make sure to leave work at the office and focus 100 percent on family when they’re at home. They don’t talk about business with their significant others. But we’re not machines with different switches for work mode and family mode—all our different aspects coexist without clear boundaries. Forcing distinctions between them is unnatural and stressful.
They work harder and become more productive.
When they do work, entrepreneurs who are first-time parents try to do the same amount of work they’d always done, but in less time. To accomplish this, they optimize their productivity and simply work harder than they ever have before. But we can push ourselves harder only for so long. Eventually our body and mind will force us to slow down.
So here’s what I did instead.
I stuck to my bachelor priorities.
I still have the same priorities I had when I was a bachelor: relationships and making the world a better place by helping other people succeed in business.
Fatherhood didn’t change these priorities; it brought them into sharper focus. Having my daughter reminded me of the importance of the things I’m doing and why I’m doing them. Although I went on a baby sabbatical and worked fewer hours the first few months after my daughter’s birth, I never put my business on the backburner.
Both family and business are equally important for my well-being. Business is not a distraction from my family, and family is not a distraction from work. They’re both in my DNA. I couldn’t exist without either one, and I couldn’t be good in one while neglecting the other. Although they seem contrary to each other, they actually complement each other.
I let my work life and family life overlap.
I run a remote team, so I work at home a lot. And although I do have an office, it’s only a five-minute walk away from my house. My daughter was with me on our team retreat and she has attended several business conferences with me.
Don’t get me wrong. I focus on the task at hand, whether it’s changing my baby’s diaper or putting together a launch strategy. But if I sometimes have to run a meeting with a baby on my lap, I do it. No big deal.
My business is how I take care of my family. It’s how I set an example for my daughter on the importance of making an impact in the world. My sense of fulfilment at work helps me to be a better husband and father. And my happiness at home makes me a better leader.
I worked fewer hours and stopped trying to work harder.
Instead of trying to get more things done in less time, I accepted that I would work fewer hours and accomplish fewer things—not try to do more in less time. I also surrendered to the reality that I wouldn’t be my most productive self when I was sleep-deprived. When I had to deliver at work after a sleepless night, I made sure I had the needed support. I also made time for a nap or an earlier bedtime.
I didn’t fight the loss of my productivity; I planned around it.
So, how did my unconventional approach make me a better entrepreneur?
Less stress, more peace of mind
I refuse to juggle work and family. Juggling is tough. You have to stay focused and maintain your rhythm. If you break your concentration for an instant, you’ll drop at least one ball. So instead, I embrace both family and work because they’re both important to me. There’s no war raging inside me, no guilty feelings and no resentments. Now I’m happier and more grounded and make better decisions.
A bigger, better team
I learned how to ask for help, both at work and home. I surrender a lot of control to my talented and committed team members.
Entrepreneurs tend to be bad at asking for help. By nature we’re usually the person everyone looks to for help. We’re supposed to have all the answers.
But there are spillover benefits to asking for help.
One of them was expanding my team. I recruited more people to take over a lot of the things I used to do. Now my company has a higher “talent density” and we’re creating more impact—without increasing demands on myself.
Better planning and results
My wife is also the company’s CFO, which meant we both had to work less after the baby was born. This forced us to make better decisions about how we use our time and energy. The year we became first-time parents, our company had two big launches scheduled. And so my team had to plan and execute with our limited availability in mind. We came up with good strategies to pull off the product launches, and they were our most successful launches to date.
People are right. When you have children, your life—and business—change forever.
And that’s not a bad thing.