Business Entrepreneur

How Business Lessons and Fatherhood Intersect

A picture of Rene Gauthier and his family to represent business lessons and fatherhood

When building a business, there are many things you need to consider, especially when it comes to adding to your team. You need to learn how to divide your attention and make sure everyone feels seen and heard. You also need to set boundaries, but be willing to share your knowledge with others. And most importantly, you need to learn how to juggle your time better than ever before. Sounds kind of like the life lessons that happen when you’re building and raising a family, no?

Ahead of this Father’s Day, Bay Street Bull set out to find out how the lessons from running a business cross over into the lessons of fatherhood. Here, business leaders share what they’ve learned from gaining their favourite title, “dad.”

Ian Rosen – EVP Digital and Strategy at Harry Rosen

Ian Rosen – EVP Digital and Strategy at Harry Rosen

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received from your father? 

The best advice I got (no surprise) was to always consider how to present as an extension of one’s personal brand. Do you want to be stuffy or trendy? Composed or confident? Throughout my career, before Harry Rosen, I would ensure that my appearance would convey something deliberate to my peers and clients. Another piece of advice is never to buy something without knowing what makes it special. “This fabric is only made in one mill in Southern Italy,” or “This shoe was inspired by the ones worn in The Godfather.” Even beyond clothing, I love to know what makes the things special that I’m making a part of my life. Connecting with products at this level is personal and gratifying to me.

How do the lessons from business and being a dad intersect in your everyday life?

It’s all about perspective and learning to slow things down. What matters right now? Watching my child fly down the slide for the first time, or the 72 unread emails burning a hole in my pocket? I hear other parents talk about how essential it is to compartmentalize and focus on what’s significant. I carry this attitude into my everyday life. For example, it’s far more important to ensure I’m present with my team and make time for them before I turn my attention over to my messages or to-do list.  

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on balancing work and family life? If so, how? 

So long as we’re running our work from home and our home from home, balance is essential. The biggest thing I’ve learned to balance is working towards my priorities. I do dinner time and bath time every night from 5 to7 p.m.—so I won’t pick up a work phone call and don’t expect an email reply! That firm stance encourages my team to protect their ‘wine nights’ or ‘bike clubs’ or things that sometimes fall in priority. That’s what we need to help everyone understand. That empathy is a fundamental part of balance in both life and work. 

Regan Johnson – Co-Founder and CTO of Vetster

Regan Johnson – Co-Founder and CTO of Vetster

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received from your father?

I am fortunate to have been raised in an entrepreneurial family and to be exposed to the ups and downs that come with startups, big businesses, and some ideas ahead of their time. My father and both of my grandfathers have started, ran, and exited many successful (and some not so successful) businesses for as long as I can remember. 

One of the greatest pieces of advice I received from my father is to always treat people with kindness, respect, and compassion—and to never burn a bridge. Circles can run incredibly small, and your reputation as a good human being carries a lot of weight both in your personal and professional lives. You never know who you are going to be interviewing with, or creating a business deal with in the future.

How do the lessons from business and being a dad intersect in your everyday life?

My absolute favorite thing in the world is being a dad. I have three beautiful children who amaze me in unexpected ways each day, and I get such joy in helping them learn new things. I try to teach them the tools they need to find their way through the problems and nudge them in the right direction if they get stuck. There is a special moment when something clicks and they light up with excitement. I see the same things happen when mentoring folks in a professional setting. 

At Vetster, we have built a culture of teamwork and collaboration. Trusting and empowering our incredible team to make more autonomous decisions has allowed us to accelerate the delivery of some amazing products. I try to never miss an opportunity to help someone grow… personally or professionally. Borrowing from my experiences as an entrepreneur, the lessons of hard work, focus, and perseverance when the going gets tough naturally make it home to my children.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on balancing work and family life? If so, how?

I am extremely passionate and love creating things—but I can easily get lost in my work, especially when my business is in a high growth stage. While it’s important as an entrepreneur to put the time and effort into building the business, there has to be a balance between work and family life. I find that it’s something you need to endeavor to maintain.

One of the silver linings of COVID-19 is that it’s allowed me to spend more time with my family than I did before—especially around the times I would be commuting to and from work. I get to experience the small (but important) things that go on each day with my children: new milestones like the exact moment a tooth falls out, or the awesome Minecraft house they just finished architecting. While these events may seem insignificant, being present for them has made a noticeable and positive impact on my relationships with my children.

The biggest takeaway of the pandemic from a work/life balance is definitely the newfound acceptance and flexibility of when and where we work. While I love getting together as a team and bouncing ideas off each other over a beer… it’s been awesome to do things like surprise my kids by picking them up from school (before everything went online), something I was rarely able to do while working downtown all the time.

I am so excited to see people again in person, and pick up where we left off, all while being flexible and embracing the individual needs that each of my employees has as it relates to their personal and family lives. Happy Father’s Day, dads!

Aashish Nathwani – Founder and CEO of Aestate

Aashish Nathwani – Founder and CEO of Aestate

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received from your father?

“Get out there and have some attitude” What kind of attitude you might ask? A positive one. Whether it was before a big hockey game as a kid or a big meeting as an adult, this was my dad’s way of saying be yourself, be confident, but always approach things with the intent of doing good.

How do the lessons from business and being a dad intersect in your everyday life?

Time management, problem-solving, project management, budgeting (huge!). I’ve been able to take some of the learning lessons and developed skills from being a marketer and bring them into daily dad life.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on balancing work and family life? If so, how?

Pre-pandemic, I looked at it as trying to find work/life balance, now with two young kids (3 and 1 1/2), I see it as life/work balance. While I miss going into an office, and that in-person time with colleagues, there are so many tools/resources that allow us to be just as productive, without sacrificing our business/growth objectives. 

Rene Gauthier – Founder and CEO of Ecologyst

Rene Gauthier – Founder and CEO of Ecologyst

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received from your father?

The advice came more through actions rather than words. My dad was very committed to getting my sister and me outside and immersed in nature. I can’t remember a weekend that we weren’t heading out on some sort of adventure. He fostered a connection with nature. An appreciation for my oneness with nature. I’m forever grateful to him for this.

How do the lessons from business and being a dad intersect in your everyday life?

I believe 20 years of entrepreneurship was great training for having a child. If you’re on the fence about having a child, I’d suggest you start a business to build up your “dealing with anything” muscles. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on balancing work and family life? If so, how?

I think COVID-19 has reinforced my need and that of the people I work with for in-person human connection. Working from home, even with the improvements of video calling, is not good for my mental/spiritual health.

In terms of family/work balance. I’ve never liked the balance term. I look more to achieve harmony and find ways to mix the two together. Hiking in a forest on my way to the surf with my son strapped to my back while fielding a business call is my idea of winning in life. My wife is also an entrepreneur and we weave business and pleasure together and I often couldn’t tell you which is which. We’ve even brought quarterly planning sessions to keep our family goals on track.

Nicholas Reichenbach – Founder and Executive Chairman of Flow Water

Nicholas Reichenbach – Founder and Executive Chairman of Flow Water

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received from your father?

The greatest piece of advice that I ever received from my father was – “in life, you only have three really close friends, and you better hope that you marry one of them!”

How do the lessons from business and being a dad intersect in your everyday life?

Multitasking and project management – the two are essential to being a successful business leader and a father.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on balancing work and family life? If so, how?

Yes, absolutely. Like everyone, last year had many ups and downs, positives and negatives. One of the biggest positives was less travel time and more family time. This is something that I hope to continue to carry through and balance in my life moving forward.

Vickram Agarwal – Founder of Daddy’s Digest

Vickram Agarwal – Founder of Daddy’s Digest

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received from your father?

My father has been my greatest inspiration and role model. Some days we are the best of friends and on others, we focus on the respect and love we have for each other. When I was a kid, he would recite a quote from American sportswriter Grantland Rice, “for when the one great scorer comes to write against your name, he marks—not that you won or lost—but how you played the game.” My father taught me to work hard and play the game of life with integrity and honor. I try to live my life this way, every day.

How do the lessons from business and being a dad intersect in your everyday life?

I asked my wife to help me answer this question and it pleased me to know that she felt the same. Over the last decade and a half, I have been hands-on, earnest, present, and given my businesses my two hundred percent. Since the birth of my daughter, I have chosen to be the same as a father. Involved in all aspects of her life, an equal decision-maker, and as present as humanly possible. My family and work get the best of me and I have found this to be a great way to live life.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on balancing work and family life? If so, how?

Pre-pandemic, things were a lot simpler, which is counterintuitive given that life slowed down in so many ways. It was easier to compartmentalize and draw lines of separation between work and family life. When you had a rough day, the hour commute home was the decompression time needed to gain perspective. Over the last year, sixty minutes has shrunk to a thirty-second walk from the home office to the dinner table. I have come to realize how much harder it is to balance work, family, and one’s own mental health. For me, it has helped build greater emotional resilience and appreciation for the small things, like daily family dinners, bedtime routines with my daughter, and late-night snacking with my wife.

Lee Piccoli – CEO of Fusion Homes

Lee Piccoli – CEO of Fusion Homes

How do the lessons from business and being a dad intersect in your everyday life?

What I’ve learned from being both an executive leader and a father is that leadership begins with ensuring you create the conditions for people to thrive. My job as a leader is to set people up for success and provide them with opportunities to learn, grow, achieve and thrive. This same mentality applies to my kids; I like to encourage a growth mindset, and I not only praise the outcome but also the process. I encourage them to always try, and to fail. And when they fail, I ask them what they learned instead of telling them what to do differently. In life, you don’t learn from failures, you learn by reflecting on them. 

I also see a strong intersection when it comes to the importance of teaching values and leading by example. Values are the foundation of everything, and I try my hardest to teach my kids to be good people. This is very similar to the way I approach how we do business at Fusion Homes. The team has been built and experienced the success we have seen today by committing to and working by our corporate values. Similar to business, the way I approach many situations with my kids is by setting high standards while demonstrating my deep devotion to their success. People make mistakes, but as a leader, it’s about supporting them and standing by unconditionally when you know they’re working hard and committing to staying on the right path towards success.

 Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on balancing work and family life? If so, how?

The pandemic hasn’t necessarily changed my outlook towards balancing work and family life, but what I have noticed is the lack of boundaries resulting from working from home. When I used to leave work when we were in the office full-time, I was done for the day, but now it’s all too easy to keep working that extra hour or get right into your morning by checking emails first thing. I know many people are experiencing this challenge as well and I’m sure we’re all looking for the answer. I really value my personal time and family time and am continuing to make a conscious effort to turn work off at the end of the day. 

Mike Gettis – Co-Founder and CEO of Kilne

Mike Gettis – Co-Founder and CEO of Kilne

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received from your father?

You ultimately have control over your attitude on life. I’ve seen my dad go through his share of struggles, both personal and professional, and stay true to himself. I am grateful to have grown up with a father who was also an entrepreneur. It definitely sets you apart in your way of thinking when you grow up with that example.

How do the lessons from business and being a dad intersect in your everyday life? 

Being a Dad is about continually learning to be patient. This is true in business too. It took a lot of hard work every day for years before we really saw success. Fatherhood can be the same. The grind of early mornings, dirty diapers, and tantrums can wear on you. But that time put in is necessary and reaps great rewards. I’m now striving more to enjoy the journey every day and not focus as much on the destination, both as a father and a founder.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on balancing work and family life? If so, how? 

Work/life has become more intertwined which is a good thing. Ironically, being in lockdown together was also just after my wife and I co-founded our new company, Kilne Cookware. So we ended up spending a lot more time together than we had planned! But it also led to lots of great moments growing the business together, testing new products in the kitchen, and enjoying the results.

Adam Froman – CEO of Delvinia

Adam Froman – CEO of Delvinia

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received from your father?

I lost my Dad in 2018 and he was always a huge inspiration and support in my life. I miss him dearly, but I never stop thinking about him and I continue to try to make him and my mother proud of me with everything I would pursue. 

He never really gave me advice, rather, his advice came from his behaviours. My father was one of the most positive, friendly energies that you could ever meet. He was always smiling and although he may inadvertently say something inappropriate, he was always given the benefit of the doubt by the people he was speaking to because he was so friendly to everyone and just loved meeting people. While I can’t say that I always carry his “Joie de Vivre,” with the pressures of running a growing technology business, a busy family life, and managing through the pandemic, I suppose that the greatest piece of advice that I take from my father is that no matter what is going on in your life, no matter how much success you feel you may be achieving, no matter what struggles you may be facing, always do it with a smile on your face, be friendly to others and never think that you are better than anyone else. We all have one life, so enjoy it.

How do the lessons from business and being a dad intersect in your everyday life?

The lessons that I have gained in business and being a dad have intersected in many ways. First, my career and business journey are guided by 5 principles that I call my 5Ps: Passion, People, Perseverance, Patience, and Perspective. I have relied on these principles to help me manage any situation in business and to help others around me to grow in their own career journeys.

Now that I am a husband and father of two university-age daughters, I try to use my career journey and the challenges I have overcome to inspire them to find overcome their own personal insecurities and gain the confidence they will need as women in this ever-changing world. I want them to be able to be resilient when things don’t work out the way they want to, and I want them to be leaders to make a difference in the world. While I want to encourage them, as my parents did for me, to find their own passion and pursue their own career journey, at the same time, I want them to be able to get up, dust themselves off, and continue moving forward when they fail. 

In my mind I am teaching them the strength to take on the world, I have to remember that as much as I want the best for them, I have to quietly support them and just listen. Similar to the way I have learned to step back in my business and allow my Executive team to step up and grow in their leadership, as a parent, I need to take a page from my parents’ playbook to simply unconditionally support them to find their own way and try to teach and not simply tell. As a parent, I always want to use my life experiences to protect my children, but I also know that I can impose my dreams and desires on my children so they can gain the self-confidence they will need to succeed in anything they choose to do. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on balancing work and family life? If so, how?

The pandemic had some incredible lessons for me. From being stopped in our tracks and forced to work remotely, to managing the uncertainty of the pandemic while at the same time we are investing in our growth, to addressing the fact that my own mental health has been extremely impacted by the pandemic, even though I need to remain a positive energy and show leadership to everyone around me. It has not been without its challenges. 

While the pandemic completely changed my work environment by being at home every day, it also changed my children’s world by having them also be at home much more. In our hectic world of work, university, and lifestyle, the accidental positive outcome of the pandemic has stopped us in our tracks and provided us the opportunity to spend time with each other more than we had in years. It allowed me to see my girls as not just my daughters that I want to protect, but as individuals who have their own personalities, views on the world, and goals in life. I was able to appreciate how amazing my girls were as people and it helped me maintain the perspective I needed as we navigated our business through the pandemic. 

I may or may not have become a better father through the pandemic, but I feel blessed and appreciative of how great my family is and the life my wife and I have been able to build together over 25 years. Now that we are seeing an end to the pandemic, I have learned to cherish the time we spend together as a family, and instead of always trying to protect my family from the stress and challenges I face on a daily basis, whether it’s the challenges with my business or my own mental health due to the pandemic, I know I can talk about it with my family. The unconditional support I received from my parents and I give to my daughters can also come back from them to support me. 

This has also made me more empathetic to the challenges my team faces as well. Working environments beyond the pandemic are still yet to be determined, but as we move towards a more normal lifestyle, people feeling safe to see family and friends, businesses and restaurants opening up, I am looking forward to a more thoughtful dialogue with my staff about how we continue to grow our business while understanding how we learn from the past year and a half. This will frame what the post-pandemic culture of our business will be, one based on a set of collective values and behaviours, that facilitate dialogue and allow people to balance their work and family after such a challenging time. Appreciating how much we took for granted yet how fragile the environment that we live is, will hopefully change people for the better and I want to encourage people to work towards common goals between how they want to balance their work and family life.

 

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