Are you a Father and a Business Owner or are you a Business owner and a Father?

For the next two weeks leading up to Father’s Day in Australia, I want to discuss the privilege we have of being a dad and owning a business in this order. When I first started the business over 35 years ago, I was a new dad. 

I had recently moved to Newcastle and we had just bought a modest little house in Lake Macquarie. I was made redundant from the job I had in the mid-eighties when the economy was in a tailspin. The prevailing economic conditions were a tough climate to commence a business in. Unemployment was sitting at over 11%, the world economy had the jitters, interest rates for residential housing went up to 18% and we were in our first year of buying our house. We had a $50,000 mortgage which would seem very modest by today’s standards, but at 18% rates, the interest payment was like having a $300,000 mortgage today. Many friends who had $100,000 mortgages were paying an interest rate payment equal to that of a $600,000 mortgage. 

Our first business was in Electrical Contracting. I was an Electrician and in my mid-twenties, fairly young in life and business experience to be starting a business. We called our business “Everything Electrical” basically because we did “everything electrical”. We were able to build some great networks and strategic alliances and soon the business was very successful. However, it was still a scary time to be in business with a lot of people going bankrupt and defaulting on payments. It was a very steep and painful learning curve. In our first seven years in business, we lost $200,000 to bad debt and had an accountant steal $80,000 from us. The combined loss was enough to buy a very nice house at the time. 

It is important to remember we learn so much more in our valleys than we do on the mountaintops of our life. I remember at age 30 when our business was six and I looked at my son and he was now seven, with two sisters in tow, I thought to myself, “how on earth did he get to be 7!” I felt life was moving too fast. Business was consuming too much of my time. My son would be 17, the age I left home before I knew it and it was time for me to change my life. I didn’t want the next 10 years to disappear quite so quickly and have a thriving business but no relationship with my wife and kids. 

There were too many people I had watched become, “rich enough to afford their own divorce”. It was then that I had a defining moment where I decided to be a dad first and a business owner second. It was my first step toward “planning a life I wanted to live in”. I believe it is one of the most rewarding and important decisions I have made.

I often referred to our son as my “practice child”, as I had to learn everything about being a dad with him first. My mother was divorced from my birth father when I was two and my stepfather was a workaholic. I didn’t spend any time with him so learning how to be a good dad was through books and observation of other dads I knew.  

When my son was in years 11 and 12 at school, preparing for the serious end of school and what might be next, it would upset me that he had more "aptitude than application". I knew his results would improve if he just studied more, and I started to be more critical and condemning rather than encouraging and supportive of him. My motive to see a better future and some better results was probably a good motive, but my approach to seeing this become reality through criticism was appalling.  

When sharing with my clients, over many years now, I share with them it is really important for us not to do “daddy damage”. Criticism rarely will help someone improve themselves. More often than not, it adds another layer of guilt, unworthiness or condemnation to their already possibly low self-efficacy and hinders positive growth rather than promoting the good we may hope for or have hidden in our motives. 

Encouragement means to “promote courage”. Criticism means “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes”. When we criticise our children, we amplify the noise inside their heads rather than quieten or calm it down.  Criticism is like pouring condemnation on someone who is probably already feeling inadequate. 

With my son, I had to decide “are results more important than our relationship?” 

I chose to have a relationship with my son and not demand results. Today my son is a dad too. He has 4 beautiful kids and is in the thick of raising them, harmonising a very important career with a very important role of being a dad and being present in both roles. He is a Clinical Nurse Specialist Level 2, and a vital member of a team of nurses in the theatres of one of the largest regional hospitals in Australia. More importantly than both of our successful careers, we are still great mates and have a great relationship today that is still getting stronger.  This was both my goal and my focus, not results. Results seem to follow a great relationship like vision precedes discipline. I still appreciate my son and everything I learn from him often more than what he learns from me. Because to lead well you first have to learn well. 

If your business has taken priority over family it is never too late to start again. We need to often "make a course correction to focus on our desired outcome". There is a difference between regret and remorse. When someone lives with regret they shape their lives, emotions and attitude around missed opportunities and mistakes they feel have defined them. They live feeling captive in a place they don’t want to be and develop coping mechanisms, often unhealthy, to deal with their pain and regret. The reality is we are not defined by our best or worst moments. 

Remorse is the beginning of contrition. The seeds of change that are necessary to produce the fruit we want to see and to redesign life to a point where you really want to “Planalife you want to live in” happen through change and encouragement and leaving criticism behind for ourselves and others. 

Our motives for incremental improvements will thrive in encouragement and wither under criticism. To “promote courage” in our families and team/staff is the beginning of intentionally setting our “Business on Purpose”. 

A problem will rarely be solved with the same thinking that created it. So, it is time to approach life with a different perspective and paradigm. A coach can help you move from where you are now to where it is YOU want to be and the best of your life is to be lived for the rest of your life. The past is past and the present is a gift for you to unwrap and begin to enjoy. Don’t stay stuck. Open up all the opportunities you have in life and begin today to shape the future you desire. 

Next week I will be focusing some more on the purpose of being a “Great Father” and the benefits not only you will see but all those who are in contact with you will receive. 

Have a great week and remember to “Planalife you want to live in through a Business on Purpose”.

Cheers, Ian

father and child


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At PLANALIFE we help people navigate the integration of a Business and Life plan that will dovetail with marriage and family to help our clients find the very best from a balanced life.
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