Last month, we received great lessons from the mothers working out of one of the best coworking spaces in Boston- our Impact Hub. This month in honor of the all great entrepreneurial dads, I did more reflection on the subject with some of our dads on the same subject.
Lessons from Geoff:
My wife, Hannah, taught me my first lesson about being a parent and an entrepreneur. We had talked off and on about when we wanted to start having children, but for an entrepreneur consumed with the daily struggle to keep their startup going, “not now” always seemed like a pretty good answer. When she decided she was ready, she told me, “You have your child already: Your startup! I want mine!”
Our oldest child turns 20 this month. She’s wonderful, and has meant so much to me. That startup I was working on then was sold long ago, and I haven’t thought about it in years. I’m so glad we didn’t wait any longer to have children. I’m so glad I realized that the never-ending urgency of a young startup did not matter nearly as much as I thought it did. And I’m so glad I chose to honor the relationships that have now sustained me for many years.
Lessons from Kevin:
Persistence – When raising children, you have no choice but to be persistent with your duties as a father, especially when your newborns depend on you for survival. This long-term constant responsibility is not something you can take a break from. It taught me that if I can apply the same persistence to entrepreneurship, I will have great results.
Focus – As a parent you need to stay focused on completing daily tasks that are important to your children at any given time. It is easy to be distracted by things that you find exciting for you, but may not be best for your children. The same principle applies to entrepreneurship, it is easy to be distracted by new products, new ideas and exciting opportunities, after-all, the desire to pursue these things is what makes you an entrepreneur! If you don’t stay focused on your product, and plan, it can spell disaster for a new company.
Lessons from Tom:
Starting a company and being a father are similar in many ways. As someone who did not do a lot of babysitting, the birth of our first child was a new experience in so many ways. Although there is no shortage of books on parenting, you really never understand what being a father is about until you are one. Starting a company is very similar in many ways. Much like being a parent for the first time, entrepreneurship tests you in many ways with new experiences, new concepts and a lot of hard work.
Sometimes, as a father, I have found ideas that I have learned as an entrepreneur transfer well to fatherhood. As an entrepreneur, we are always looking to solve friction points – pain points that make a person or a business look for a better solution. As a kid growing up, my father considered it important that I had an allowance. It was not a large one but it was something that I received weekly, well at least when we remembered. In addition, my parents tried to teach me philanthropy by ensuring that I was involved in fundraising events for worthy causes. Investing was discussed but never really something we did at home. As a father, I believe that part of parenting is to ensure kids grow up with actual hands-on experience with money. As I became a father, I wanted to make this process easier so we created a model when our kids received their allowance in three ways.
One, it went directly into a stock that they chose so they have grown up seeing the benefits (and the challenges) of investing. Secondly, we set up micro-lending accounts for them on Kiva and a third of their allowance is lent to borrowers who need money to grow their business. They read about the various borrowers and learn why they are raising money and in some cases understand that business does not always go as planned, resulting in losses. Lastly, they get a third of their allowance to spend. I looked at third party websites to help with this but in the end, created something on my own, very similar to the entrepreneurship mindset. We have automated as much of the process as possible but there is more to do.
Occasionally, we have worked with our kids on special projects with one of the more fun ones letting them paint their own paintings and then selling these painting in front of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City (someone posted a video of them on their blog here if you want to see them in action).
One of the key characteristics of being a father that transfers quite well to entrepreneurship is listening. As a father, you can talk all you want but to really understand the problem at hand, the key is listening. In starting a company, we all believe that we know what the client wants but we only really begin to understand the problem when we begin listening to our customers, their concerns, and what they really think. In other cases, it is about listening to team members as we look for the right solution.
Lessons from Ubin:
Fatherhood and entrepreneurship are much alike. Both are beautiful and require constant devotion and dedication with a hope of nurturing something close to your heart. Two of the most important transferable lessons I have learnt from fatherhood to entrepreneurship are: Patience and having Fun.
Raising a kid requires a lot of patience and it is a key attribute that makes a successful entrepreneur. In an entrepreneurial setup, we always have this “urge to do:” urge to create, urge to differentiate, urge to get funded, urge to market. Being patient during these urges and striking at the right moment are, I believe, key for startup success. Likewise, kids always want to have fun, they want to play, run around no matter what time of the day it is. Having fun is also essential for entrepreneurial longevity and entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurship is all consuming at times and we must make sure we take out some time and have fun for continued success.
Lessons from Stephen:
I am a new parent, so I certainly do not profess to be an expert in this matter. In fact, I think that is probably where I would see the closest parallel between parenting and my professional life right now: Embracing my lack of knowledge and harnessing my ability to learn, grow, and adapt to changes that most of the time are outside of my control.
Being a parent of infants, they learn new tricks and develop so quickly that as soon as you feel like you are getting comfortable with whatever developmental stage they’re in, a shift occurs and you have to rethink your approach. There are lots of parallels between this and operating in a market and field which is still in many ways in its infancy. You can’t afford to get complacent or think that you have got it all figured out, because that’s when you’re at your most vulnerable.
Lessons from Neil:
One of the most important things I can do as a father is to help my kids get into a position to succeed. So too in business.
1. It’s a cliche, but you often learn as much from failure as from success. Give your kids room to fall down.
2. Appreciate the moment.
3. The best moments are often unexpected/unplanned. Be open to what can surprise you.
Lessons from Kerry:
I have two daughters, Alexis and Sophia, nine and six years, respectively. Our firm is focused on providing technical assistance to entrepreneurs, especially those in under-served communities. From working with these entrepreneurs, we have learned over the last year or so, that what they need the most is mentoring and money. Interestingly enough, my girls need the same thing. They need to see me not only as a role model but also as a teacher. I do my best to protect them and yet I must prepare them for the lumps that life throws at them. Thus, while I am a champion, coach, advocate, and sponsor, I cannot play the game for them. I have to let them do that and just be supportive. On the money side, I provide access to capital. I am a budding entrepreneur, so it is usually capital from my wife, a bank, or a creditor, but to them it is simply cash and a means to an end. This cash is typically destined for books at Porter Square Books or legos at Henry Bear Park in Cambridge. Similar to with entrepreneurs, it is an investment in their growth and their futures that will pay back in spades.
Lastly, I will say that with my girls I have to be patient and fully engaged. I also have to actively listen and have fun.
(Featured Image by Stephanie Smith Photography)