As another Father’s Day approaches, we all take some time to appreciate the big man in our life if we’re lucky enough to have him around.
This is also a great time to reflect on how we’re doing in the parenting arena. We’ve talked to 23 dads in business to bring you practical tips on how to be a killer in business – and be a 5-star dad while you’re at it.
Tip #1: Physically distance your phone during family time.
We live in a world where our phone is like an extension of our body – when was the last time you left home without it?
For many dads, having the phone around during family time can quickly take away from those precious moments you – and your kids – will remember later on.
Michael Sams, insurance agent, says that he intentionally leaves his phone in another room, and if family time is away from home, he’ll either leave his phone at home or put it on airplane mode.
“Go to any park or ballgame, and all the parents in the stands are staring at their phone,” he says. “It can be tough, and I find myself doing it. But before you know it, that baseball game is going on without you. So just leave the phone in the car or turn it on airplane mode.”
Caden Rhoton, Founder of dimedad.com, says that he’s gone all day long, so the two hours before his kids go to bed is crucial. During this time, he also puts away his phone and silences his computer.
“I’ve noticed that if I try to make phone calls or answer emails during this time, I’m not as focused because I’ve got a two-year-old competing for my attention. While two hours can seem like a long time, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not long at all.”
For Shawn McAskill, CMO and Partner at Keenability, he takes a second to look around and realize he’s at home – not at the office. He sets his phone out of sight so that he’s not interrupted by texts and emails. He explains, “Doing these physical things helps my mind to reset and go into ‘dad’ and ‘husband’ mode. It's a constant thing that I have to battle against, but like anything else, I know if I continue to practice it enough, it'll become automatic.”
Finally, the time around the dinner table is really important, so keeping your phone away during dinner can be one of the easiest ways to separate work from family. Chris Gardner, CEO of Artemis Consultants, says, “Our family has a ‘no technology at the table’ rule. The 30 minutes we spend around the table is a huge reason we are so close.”
Tip #2: Make time for events, volunteering, and coaching opportunities.
When your daughter sees you in the crowd cheering during her dance recital – when your son sees you standing on the sidelines cheering him on – these are the moments your kids will remember.
Kiry Peng, President and CEO of Business Consumer Alliance and father of two says that making a point to attend and get involved with as many activities as you can is extremely important.
“The bonding time spent with your kids and your contribution to the community provides a social outlet for your own well-being, and the memories and friendships formed will last a lifetime,” he says.
His daughter is completing her freshman year at UCLA, and his son just completed his first year of high school. Kiry says that both of his kids have expressed gratitude for his involvement with coaching, volunteering, and attending their events throughout the years.
“The trade-off is that you’ll end up working odd hours to make up for the time spent with your children, but in the end it’s all worth it,” he says.
Tip #3: Block off family time on your calendar ahead of time.
If you don’t make time for your family, something will always come up that feels urgent.
Larry Medcalf, insurance agent and Owner of MedCard says that he makes a point to schedule things on Sundays, and he doesn’t let anything else get in the way of that. “I know from past experience that if it's not on my calendar, it won't usually happen, so it's one of the first things at the beginning of the week that goes on my calendar.”
Nick Mariniello, President of FocalPoint Business Coaching of NJ and father of two sons, explains that he always had every single activity in his calendar for the following month – every baseball, basketball, and football game was in there.
He explains, “When I had a business event that would conflict, I had to make a conscious decision as to which event would have the biggest impact on the long-term well being of my sons. Sometimes, the financial impact of taking the business meeting over a school or sporting event would win out. But by having it on my calendar, it forced me to make the conscious decision of which mattered more.”
For Colin Nabity, Founder of LeverageRx, he finds that sharing his Google calendar with his wife makes a huge difference. “My wife and I have a rule that if something isn’t on the calendar, it doesn’t happen. This gives my wife the ability to schedule baby appointments, travel, and other social activities while knowing if there may be a conflict with any business-related meetings. We rarely fight or have things that come up out of left field because we are on the same page with our calendar,” he says.
Tip #4: Consider working from home.
We completely understand that not everyone is able to work from home, but if you do have that option, John Holloway, Co-Founder of NoExam.com, advises that you take advantage of it.
He takes frequent breaks during the workday to spend a few minutes with his kids, whether it be eating lunch together or jumping on the trampoline. “While hard work and sacrifice is required, it is also important to keep your priorities in order and not let your business take over your life,” he says.
If your kids are really little, that can also be the perfect time to consider a few days at home instead of the office. Patrick Horan, Owner of Bombinate Web Design, says that working from home when the kids are small gives you a great opportunity to catch some of those “milestone moments” like first steps.
Simon Trask, a father of 3 kids who runs Uppercut Tactical explains that working from home gives him the chance to break up his day differently than he could if he was in an office setting. “If the kids are having fun in the back yard or something, I’m not afraid to derail plans and take a half hour to soak it all up together. That's the advantage we have.”
The downside? Kids are loud. Simon jokes that you should invest in a good pair of headphones. (But seriously, you should.)
Tip #5: Do business with integrity.
While most of us think about work/life balance, Jonathan Teixeira, Co-Founder of WalletWin, explains that the work you do is really important.
“I think we dads have a unique challenge: go out and provide for our families (via a business we’ve created!) and be present to our family. You are a huge role model for your kids,” he says. “The type of business you’re in and how you conduct yourself teaches them more than you know.”
Your kids are constantly picking up on what you do, so when you’re doing business, always lead with integrity. It’ll have a lasting impact on your kids.
Tip #6: Time block!
The hardest part of running a business and being a present father is separating “work brain” from “family brain.”
Most of us have a hard time turning off our work brain – we’re constantly thinking about what emails we need to send, that appointment tomorrow, that one problem that needs a solution – and that can really impact the time you spend with your kids.
Mark Aselstine, Founder of Uncorked Ventures, says that he practices time blocking in order to make time for his family. “That allows me to be more productive when the kids are gone, but also allows me to do stuff like coaching my kids baseball team without feeling bad about it.”
Mark also says that his customers understand, and while some make jokes about how jealous they are of his ability to make a 4pm practice, they completely understand – especially when they get an email back from him after the kids are asleep for the day.
Tip #7: Tell your kids about what you do.
Work and family don’t have to be completely separate – many of the dads we spoke with explained that they share their business with their kids.
Matt Weik, Owner of Weik Fitness, LCC explains that he has a 3-year-old boy and twins on the way.
“My son is a little too young to understand a job or business, but he does like seeing me in newspapers and my logo on apparel and in magazines. He points at my business logo and says, ‘Dad, it’s your business!’ So, while he doesn’t completely understand, he does know the meaning of the logo and that I am building something myself.”
Jonathan Teixeira also explains to his kids what he’s working on and why he’s doing it. “Beyond just saying ‘Daddy’s gonna put food on the table,’ I say that people need my help figuring out their money so they can be less stressed.”
Finally, Tom Madden, Partner at iPlanRx, says that he likes to incorporate his kids into his company experience in every way he can. “Letting them come to my office and complete small tasks that I reward them for lets them feel like a part of the overall success of my company,” he says.
Tip #8: Treat your family like your best client.
It might sound weird to treat your family like a client, but for many business-oriented dads, this just seems to make the most sense.
Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager for Maple Holistics explains that he schedules time for his family like he would for a client.
“You will have to make sacrifices for your business, and you will have to make sacrifices for your family,” he says. “You need to plan time to be a dad, otherwise you will find that work overtakes you. The lines between home and work are growing ever blurrier in this digital age, and that means it is on you to set the boundaries and stick to them.”
Tip #9: Bring your kids with you to work (within reason).
So, maybe not every day should be Bring Your Kids to Work Day, but in the right circumstances, it can be really beneficial.
Michael Sams explains that early on, he took his daughter with him to deliver policies. While he doesn’t recommend bringing your kids for a full-on presentation, he found that the follow-up appointment was short enough to warrant bringing along his daughter.
“Every client I’ve seen in that situation feels like they’re part of the family – they love seeing kids. I had to halfway threaten my daughter to be on her best behavior, but I don’t regret it one bit.”
And best of all? His daughter loved going with him. Michael says that to this day, she still says, “Dad can I please go to work with you?”
The same holds true for Dr. Donnie Hutchinson, an Author, Coach, and Consultant with 4 kids between the ages of 14 and 21. “Some of my kids attend my speeches and workshops on work/life balance. Some join me in the lecture hall at universities. I actually give my oldest child opportunities to lecture in my university classes I teach,” he says.
Garrett Ball, President of 65Medicare.org, will sometimes bring his kids to the office. He explains, “They get to see where I am daily and learn about what I do. My oldest daughter, who is 9, is able to help me do some filing and other similar tasks and takes pride in being able to contribute.”
Tip #10: Start a ritual that shifts your focus from work mode to family mode.
Rituals can seem really silly sometimes, but for a lot of us, it’s what we need to change our headspace.
For Bill Fish, Co-Founder of Tuck.com, it’s a 15-minute walk. He works from home, so he will finish up his work for the day and literally go outside for a 15-minute walk before coming back in the door.
“While it is great to not have to deal with a lengthy commute home, you also miss that time to unwind and flip your brain into being a father and giving full attention to your wife and children. While that seems a bit silly, I use that 15 minutes to decompress and spend precious time with my sons as they surely don’t care about any stress I’m experiencing at work,” he says.
Tip #11: Use evenings and mornings as a time to bond.
For Logan Estop-Hall, co-founder and CEO of Rebelhack, his biggest challenge is work/life balance. One way he combats that is by the simple task of putting his kids to bed as much as he can.
By making this an evening ritual, he feels that it’s helped to strengthen his bond with his kids. As a bonus, he also tries to get up as early as possible so that he can have breakfast with his kids.
“When you're the first person they see in the evening and morning, it makes a real impact,” he says. “Even if it means getting mashed banana on my shirt!”
Davis Lin, Founder of Client Acquisition Lab, makes a point to involve his kids in dinner preparations. “I would ask them to help me cook by sprinkling the seasoning on the food in the frying pan or helping me taste the food to decide if we should add more salt. This way, it becomes both a learning and bonding session for my kid.”
Dayne Shuda, Owner of Ghost Blog Writers, has a six-month-old daughter, and he finds that early mornings with her also make for a great bonding time. “Whenever she wakes up, I'm the one to go in and change her diaper while my wife wakes up and prepares to nurse. It's a short time, but it's helped our bond. And I'm a pro at diaper changing now,” he laughs.
Tip #12: If you can’t have quantity, focus on quality.
Work can be demanding – and if you’re the primary breadwinner for your family, there’s a huge pressure to make ends meet.
Sometimes, you have to prioritize work, and that can mean sacrificing a lot of time away from your family.
In those situations, Jory Lange, Owner of The Lange Law Firm, PLLC, advises that you focus on quality than quantity. “When you’re with your kids, be present. Really be present. Put your phone down. Put away your work. And really be there with them. When you’re really present with your kids, that’s when the moments of magic happen, when you’re reminded just how wonderful it is to be Dad.”