"You are too selfish to be a dad."
My wife told me this on our first date. The funny thing was that she was spot on. I had just founded my company, Wild Creations, and I was consumed with growing the business and securing my reputation as a successful entrepreneur (still working on the latter). Additionally, as someone who spent the better part of thirty years a bachelor, living a Seinfeld lifestyle, the whole idea of disrupting it with children was the last thing on my life's to-do list.
As fate would have it, I fell in love, and she eventually agreed to marry me despite my selfishness (as well as a great number of other flaws). We have since had two amazing children, both as I continued to run Wild Creations. Having children has changed my life, as they tend to do, though I have found that the greatest impact has been on how I approach business.
Here are three ways being a dad has helped me be a better business leader and entrepreneur:
1. Parenting helps you prioritize.
When I was single, my car was my most prized possession. I would detail it weekly and was religious about servicing it every three months. Now, when I pick up business associates, I find myself clearing Cheerios from the backseat and apologizing for the juice stains. To lead a business effectively, you need to prioritize the tasks that will make the most significant impact on the bottom line. What I learned was that there are far better uses of my time than detailing my Honda Civic every week.
In the past, when I would visit friends with children, I was amazed at how they could sit and read with loud kids tugging relentlessly at their pant legs and plastic Legos haphazardly whizzing by their head. I was also impressed how they could identify the cry of their child through a chaotic chorus of noise on a playground. Now I understand. Running a business also requires this innate ability to listen through all the "noise" and be able to identify the most meaningful and useful information that comes before you.
2. Parenting teaches patience.
I used to be someone who walked fast and expected results faster. These days, I can only walk as fast as that three-foot tall tike that has my pinkie in a vice grip. Early mistakes I made in my business were often due to rushing into a decision or chasing an urgent hunch. Taking time to assess a business opportunity can pay off long-term, even if that means passing on it altogether.
3. Parenting makes it very clear that it's not all about you.
In the past, I would meet with my business partners after work and find myself discussing work all through the night. Now when I come home, I find that my children don't really care about my angry customers or late-paying clients. I instead find myself leaving work at the door to indulge in a game of Eat to Win or casual cup of make-believe tea. I have always believed it important to turn off work from time to time to clear your mind and relax, even if that respite comes in the form of Frozen for the 42nd time.
My wife was right about me when we met (brutal honesty is what I admire about her). I was selfish and always believed that you should prioritize yourself above all others. After having kids, however, I find myself much more attuned to the happiness of my family, friends and colleagues. As an entrepreneur, empathy and compassion are incredibly important for leading a business, especially through the tumultuous growth periods, and having children somehow naturally endows you with this quality.
These personal changes will differ from person to person, and I am in no way advocating that you have children just to be a better entrepreneur. In fact, if you still enjoy clean cars and indulging in weekend-long marathons of cable shows like House of Cards, then take it from me, having children does not help.
If you are thinking of becoming a dad or happen to be one already, however, I encourage you not to fall into the "family or company" conundrum. They can, in fact, coexist and even thrive together. You'll just have to make a few priority changes, like swapping House of Cards for Frozen.
For what it's worth, Frozen is actually a really good flick.
Are you a dad entrepreneur? Please share your stories about how your children have helped make you a great entrepreneur below.