What being a Father taught me about being a Founder

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 9.31.26 AMWhen we launched our company from the loft of my home, it seemed like nirvana. I didn’t have to commute. I didn’t have a boss. I didn’t have hours of meetings to attend. I could focus like a laser beam on serving our clients and nurturing the growth of our company.

The real driver of the decision to start a business in our home was our son. He was 11 months old. Our hearts couldn’t handle the thought of him being in day care all day while we both worked. It would mean lots of sacrifices to become an entrepreneur, but it was important to us for our son’s sake.

So with great enthusiasm and excitement I proclaimed, “I’ll take care of Joshua while I build the business from home.” “Oooookkkkkkkaaayyyyy,” said my wife with some level of skepticism in her voice.

It all started out great. I was super organized. The scheduled feedings. Work email. The scheduled naps. Work phone call. The scheduled play times. Write a work proposal. The scheduled walks to the park. Work coaching session with a new client. The scheduled snacks.

I can do this, I triumphantly said to myself.

It didn’t take long for the wheels to start falling off.

The phone rang and it was one of my clients. I coach CEOs and he was very upset about a situation with his co-founder. While I was closely listening with one ear glued to the phone, in my other ear I heard a noise in my son’s room. He was sleeping so I just figured he was moving around in his crib.

My client’s emotions were rising to a feverish pitch. My brain was super focused on his situation. That’s when I saw a hand emerge from my son’s room. It took a moment to process this thought.

Is someone in my son’s room? No, the hand is too small. Yikes, it was my son’s hand. He wobbled around the corner…covered in feces…with a big broad smile.

I was stunned. He was out of his bed. That never happened before.

Wait. Why is he covered in feces? Oh no, he’s touching the walls with feces covered hands. He’s tracking leaky diaper doo-doo onto the carpet. Uggh! What will my wife think?!

Focus, I told myself.

He inched closer to my desk, smiling and giggling at his big escape from his crib. I didn’t know what to do. Now next to me, he stood rocking back and forth trying to keep his balance having only recently mastered this new feat. Then it happened.

“Poo-Poo, Daddy. Poo-Poo,” he said with pride.

“Did you just call me, Poo-Poo,” my client asked me incredulously.

“Aaah, no. Aaah, not at all,” I stammered with embarrassment.

It had happened. My Dad life and my business life suddenly collided in spectacular fashion.

In fact, this incident, and many others like it, taught me one very important lesson. Be flexible…$@#!* happens.  Being a father has made me a better Founding CEO because I now expect that unexpected things will happen.

  • When a client takes 8 months to pay, I know that happens and I stay flexible.
  • When a client cancels a meeting I traveled 30 minutes for, I use it as an opportunity to take care of some things on my laptop.
  • When a team member gets sick and can’t work, I use it as an opportunity to learn something new.

Kids teach us that life is much more than the worries, concerns, anxieties and issues we face as a Founder & CEO. So, if you find yourself struggling with the chaos and confusion of leading your startup, you may want to remember these few things…

  1. Just like the feces on the carpet, lots of messes can be cleaned up.
  2. Just like my client on the phone, people are forgiving.
  3. Just like my son’s climbing achievement led to feces on the wall…if you focus on the achievement and learning, your team will reward you with loyalty.
  4. Just like my attempts at structure and scheduling were helpful, startup plans often need to shift to meet current realities.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Founding CEO fathers out there in startup land. Enjoy the ride. Your time with your children and your startup go by fast.


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