Rocking, bouncing, walking, singing—my 18-month-old daughter was simply not interested in sleeping. “It’s 3 AM. Go to sleep!” I wanted to say, but she wouldn’t understand and couldn’t care less about the time.
Then she gave me a hug and said, “Dada, I wuv you.” And just like that, my frustration was gone.
Throughout this early morning dance party, I found myself shifting between absolute love and complete frustration. I had a big day coming up and needed some sleep.
Sometime later (I’m sure it was during another midnight sleep struggle with my daughter), it struck me that being a father and an entrepreneur are strangely similar. They share moments of sheer joy and total anxiety, and great rewards and sleepless nights. Both come with a “healthy” dose of stress and headaches, less time at the gym, and more uncertainly than you ever thought possible.
Two years ago, my wife and I had our second daughter. As fate would have it, she arrived just as I was launching my most recent business. (Great timing.) I can’t say I’ve done either job perfectly, but I’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are a few tips that have helped me find success as both a father and entrepreneur.
Prepare for the unexpected. Meetings get canceled, kids get sick, investors fall through, and last-minute business trips come up. Being a parent and an entrepreneur has taught me to think on my feet and get comfortable dealing with the unexpected. Take advantage of surprise breathers. 2 AM is a great time to catch up on emails after you’ve put your daughter back to sleep. A canceled meeting becomes a great opportunity to have lunch with your wife. Keep a calm demeanor and stick to a routine—with stability comes confidence, and confidence breeds success.
Know where you stand. Everyone has a different philosophy as a manager, entrepreneur, and parent. Try not to be persuaded by the latest trend in business or parental discipline. It’s great to have different perspectives, but at the end of the day, you must trust your instincts. I try to be consistent in communicating where I stand—my corporate value proposition is as clear as my stance on table manners. Always provide excellent customer service, and chew with your mouth closed!
Surround yourself with good people. We don’t want our girls hanging around with cheaters, bullies, or dishonest kids, so my wife and I try to promote interactions with good kids. At work, I surround myself with employees, advisors, and board members who have my back, understand our business, and work hard—good people. Your clique as an adult is just as important as it was as a teenager. Maybe more. I also bring my kids to the office and invite my team to the house. You have two important families here, and it’s good if they get to know each other.
Learn something new every day. Whether it’s a new method of electronic payment that will increase revenues, or the scientific word for a worm scientist (helminthologist), listen intently to those around you. Some of my best insights come from my daughters and young employees. In other words, be present—you don’t do anything well if you’re not fully engaged. I try and focus on work when I’m at work, and focus on my kids when I’m with my kids. Building a rocket ship in the backyard and checking emails makes for a shoddy rocket.
Be rewarded by the little things. We all decided to be entrepreneurs because we’re motivated by the payout, the challenge, and the flexibility. As parents, we want the best for our kids—to be the president, an Olympic gold medalist, or a Nobel Prize winner. However, if you only focus on the big payout, you may miss out on the little victories: losing a first tooth, signing a new customer, making payroll, and writing a report about parrots. Some of my most memorable accomplishments are the smallest ones.