Kevin Bonfield, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Dallas, is founder and managing partner of Concentre, a boutique consulting company that aligns its clients' purpose and business strategy with technology elements to get results. Parenting is a great teacher about both life and business. As a father of young children, we asked Kevin about his strategy to minimize the impact of work-related travel on his family. Here's what he shared.
Before I started my company, I worked as a management consultant, so I am well-acclimated to a travel schedule that takes me out of town for a few days every other week. In fact, when I go too long without getting on a plane, I miss the excitement of new scenery and experiences.
Along my entrepreneurial journey, my travel schedule has ebbed and flowed. But the most significant change in both my professional and personal life is having two kids, ages 10 and 8, who are affected by my absence. They understand that travel is a part of my life--and therefore our lives--but when I'm gone too often, or for too long, it makes a disproportionate impact on the rest of my family.
To remedy this, I asked for their input on how to make my frequent travel more tolerable for them. It's fair to say that they've gotten more used to my travel schedule over time. As my daughter Lola shared, "It's not the best thing ever, but it's not the worst thing ever. It doesn't change my whole life."
Conversations with both Sydney and Lola helped craft these five strategies that make my travel schedule more palatable from their perspective:
- Ask your kids what works and doesn't work. Two years ago, I was traveling significantly for business and, at ages 6 and 8, my daughters found it difficult when I was away from home so much. When we talked about precisely what was so difficult, they told me being gone for two nights was okay, but three nights was their breaking point. So where I could, I changed my travel schedule.
- Communicate before, during and after. We keep a weekly planner in our house, so everyone knows what each member of the family is doing during the week. I also remind them the day before, and the day of, that I am heading out of town and how long I will be gone. While I'm away, we find time to connect by both FaceTime and text messaging so checking in and talking about their day remains a priority.
- Connect your kids to the trip. For my more exciting trips, we discuss the destination and what I'll be doing there. We may look at a map or find pictures or videos online so they can learn about the more interesting or historical parts of the city. I also try to bring home a small reminder of new cities I visit. For example, when I travelled to Barcelona, I brought back key chains, which they collect on their school backpacks, in the style of Gaudi's salamander.
- Invest in spending time together before and after. One of the greatest lessons I learned about family was from Bradley Callow, a fellow EO member who recently passed away. His passion project, Rich Legacy, teaches successful people how to build a closer relationship with their families and raise grateful, hardworking, resilient children. Bradley taught me the most important lesson: When it comes to your kids, Time = Love. After a long trip, exhaustion can make it challenging to prioritize an activity with my kids where I can be mentally present--or, as Sydney says, "paying attention to me"--but I make it happen because it's a start toward making up for the time when I'm not home.
- Take your kids with you. One lesson I learned from my time in the EO Accelerator program is to stack activities--take two objectives and find a way to achieve both of them at the same time. I've found a few instances where I have managed to take my daughters with me on a trip, especially when I travel back home to the UK. This allowed them to sightsee with me in London and then enjoy a visit with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins while I worked. Introducing Lola to Windsor Castle and taking Sydney to her first West End musical as a part of business trips to London are two of my happiest memories.
With characteristic wisdom beyond her years, Lola sums it up: "When my Dad is gone on a trip, it doesn't mean you have to be sappy about it. But you still miss him."