Fatherhood and entrepreneurship share many things in common: long hours, hard lessons learned, demanding clientele, financial reviews, and priceless rewards being chief among them. In a lot of ways, being a parent is like running a company.
So far, 2020 has been a year of reflection, forcing us to give pause and reevaluate the priorities in our life. For many in the business community, the juggling act of being a father and a business owner all within the home environment has only amplified the tremendous obstacles that parents must navigate under normal circumstances. With that in mind, however, the realities of a global pandemic have meant more time spent at home with our loved ones. In many ways, this may be a time we look back on in the future where family bonds blossomed and grew.
Heading into Father’s Day weekend, we asked eight Canadian entrepreneurs and business leaders about their experience as a father, and lessons learned from their own dads. Here’s what they had to say.
Luke Vigeant, Co-Founder and CEO of Inkblot Therapy
“Some days my four-year-old son, Felix, wants to be a transformer when he grows up. But most days he wants to work at Inkblot with his mom and dad. If you asked him why he wants to work with us he would tell you that Inkblot helps people feel better, and he would also tell you that the reason his dad works late, misses bedtime, and is not always around to play with him is that he’s working to help make the world a little bit better.
He’s always been great at understanding this, he’s such an amazing and empathetic kid, but it’s impossible to ignore the disappointment sometimes present in his voice when he realizes I won’t be able to help him build his train set in the evening because I am working late or having dinner with a potential investor.
I was an entrepreneur before I was a dad and I was nervous about what it would mean for my ability to focus and put in the work. For me, I’ve been able to carry on at a similar clip because of a support system of fiercely competent coworkers, great friends, supportive parents and in-laws, and a wife who has bought into the rollercoaster entrepreneur life we lead, who picks up my slack at work and at home, and strives to let me be the best father I can be in the windows of time I’m off the clock.
My wife and I are expecting our next child this Thanksgiving and we’re really not sure how the current support system we’ve built will stack up during these unprecedented times. But, we’re excited to see how our careers and lives adapt and change as I work to 2X my current kid-rate and scale my most important job: being a dad.”
Mohamad Sawwaf, Co-Founder and CEO of Manzil
“As a first-generation Canadian and one of five siblings, there was an art to stretching your budget especially when you’re on a fixed income. I remember looking forward to Saturdays because that was the one day of the week I got to go out with my dad. It felt like we were just hanging out but in reality, I was my dad’s CFO for the day. Our itinerary involved going from store to store getting groceries, household items, or clothing for my siblings. My responsibility was simple: manage the budget and make sure that we never exceeded it. I considered myself a walking calculator at the time, not knowing that budgeting and personal finance were going to be valuable lessons that I would learn at a young age. After all, those lessons helped guide my career and mission in life today.
As a father of two boys, I aspire to be the role model my father was to me as I try to engage them in life lessons early on in the hopes that they identify their passions sooner than later. I also strive to show them that a single individual can make an impact on many lives just by doing what they love. As I reflect on the valuable time I spent with my father every Saturday, I hope that one day my boys will reflect and appreciate the same of me.”
Adam Froman, Founder and CEO of Delvinia
“Being an entrepreneur and a father simultaneously has been an interesting journey.
My first daughter was born a year after I started my company in 1998, and my second daughter was born when my company almost imploded due to the dot com crash. Becoming a father during those early years in my entrepreneurial journey were key in reminding me that there is more to life than just work. No matter how bad a day I had at the office, how difficult things were with my company, I could come home and see my daughters who just wanted me to be their dad. That perspective helped me through a lot of difficult moments.
Today, my daughters are 18 and 21 and both in university. My career of being a CEO has evolved from when my daughters were younger, as I now focus on scaling up my technology firm Delvinia. But my daughters are still my primary source of inspiration and continue to give me purpose in being their role model, and in helping them find their passions as they start their adult journey in life.”
Ryan Naimark, Founder and President of Naimark Law Firm
“As a father of three young children, I’ve learned the importance of treating people fairly. Fatherhood has helped me recognize that the most important asset in both business and life is your team. I view my career at Naimark Law Firm similar to how I view my life at home; success does not occur between the hours of 9 to 5 and you can’t be successful without taking calculated risks.”
Philippe Gauthier, Co-Founder of The Lake
“Fatherhood was a critical point in both my life and career. It has forced me to prioritize ensuring my actions are aligned with the values that I wanted to teach my son, Romer. I believe that one way I can set a good example for my son is by building a business I am proud of and passionate about.
Starting The Lake with my wife Bren has been a great motivator for me to be a good example for my son. Additionally, entrepreneurship has allowed me to put in the hours and effort required to run a business, while still being able to build in meaningful time with family. It is important to me that Romer has me around with my full attention so we can create lasting memories in his childhood that will provide a solid foundation for our relationship as we grow together.
As The Lake grows and aims to bring on more employees, this is something we want to build into our core values as a company. We want our future employees to structure their days around their family priorities; not the other way around. The last few months have definitely been a challenge for both business and family life—as it has been for many people trying to work from home with a toddler 24/7—but it has also been incredibly rewarding. I can already tell this time with Ro will have a lasting positive impact in solidifying our bond together, and I’m certain it will be a period that I will cherish more and more as he grows.”
Andrew Kirby, Co-Founder and President of Hounds Vodka
“I was inspired to get into the spirits business by my dad, Dan, who worked for Seagrams and then Diageo for over 30 years. I saw how hard he worked throughout his career to make it to an executive-level position and I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps, which ultimately led to the creation of Hounds Vodka.
His background was in production so we were able to work together very closely in the infancy stages of Hounds on different blends. We had a lot of roadblocks along the way because of how innovative our product was, so his knowledge and expertise really helped propel our brand to where it is today – North America’s leading black vodka.
To this day, we still work collaboratively, whether it’s through new projects or bouncing ideas off each other, he’s always the first one I call.”
Ian Rosen, Vice President, Digital and Strategy at Harry Rosen
“I don’t think there is an experience quite like becoming a parent; things get so real and surreal all at once. Our daughter Ella was born three days after Boxing Day on December 29th, 2019, so she was nice enough to arrive just after our peak selling period! The first five and a half months have been full of ups, downs, and a lot of firsts. The most important thing I’ve realized is even as long as those sleepless nights feel, things move so fast with kids. It’s important to slow down and enjoy each step of the journey (and every cute stylish outfit because they only get worn one to two times!) Through gaining that perspective, I have been making sure to make time to be present when I’m home, putting the phone away and the laptop down when the workday is over and just being a dad.
When I joined Harry Rosen in 2018, it marked the third generation of Rosens to join the company. Having my own kid couldn’t not change my outlook on business. I find myself thinking more and more about how we ensure we make the right decisions for the long term so that I can hand over the business in a better position to the next generation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been an unprecedented challenge for our business and the entire retail industry, but I find myself more motivated than ever to ensure we not only survive but innovate and thrive. The pandemic has also handed us a major challenge as parents, working and staying at home with a newborn who needs to be entertained at all times. Three months into the new normal, I’ve mastered participating on Zoom calls in between cries and babbling. Looking back on this experience, despite the challenges we’re facing professionally, I can only be grateful that personally I’ve gotten to be at home for so many firsts when I would have typically been at the office.”
Nicholas Reichenbach, Founder and CEO of Flow Alkaline Water
“My father is a lawyer. We grew up in a small town of a thousand people, one where everyone knew each other. We were well established in the town, and always supported the community and businesses—our family lived there for generations upon generations. Early on my dad inspired me. In 1981 he started his first bottled water company, Formosa Springs. When I was growing up I saw my father’s business take off and it really inspired and shaped me into the businessman I am today. I wanted to keep the legacy going, and that’s when I created Flow Alkaline Spring Water, a naturally alkaline, eco-friendly brand.”
Guillermo Salazar, Serial Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Raven Hockey
“I’m lucky to be an entrepreneur. My dad was one, and I’m (especially) lucky that my wife comes from a family of entrepreneurs. The origin of the word comes from the French translation meaning ‘to do something.’ As a dad, I especially like the reality that my children have only known me as someone that ‘does things’ because I want them to be adults that ‘do things’. In our view, the world needs more doers.
I also love the work I do because it is my co-creation, obligations, and risks. Like breathing, work is something I ‘just do.’ When I look at the balance that being an entrepreneur allows, it’s the reality that I can work anywhere and any time, as long as I get the job done, serve my team, and our customers. Creativity, curiosity, grit, and accountability are important values for our family. Being an entrepreneur allows me to demonstrate what we teach, and we hope when our children are adults, we earn the privilege to witness their journey ‘to do something.'”