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Three entrepreneurs-turned-fathers impart their wisdom on balancing family with a growing business
For business owners and professionals with children, days often involve a careful juggling act of work and childcare.
Business calls, emails, meetings, and work can be regularly interspersed with school runs, emergency trips to the doctor and sport, in addition to quality time with the family.
It is demanded of business owners that they are masters in an organization, and that same demand rises significantly when children are brought into the equation.
So, how do those involved in fast-growing businesses manage to set the pace while also raising a family?
Thankfully, Accounts and Legal’s Managing Director, Chris Conway, Business Strategy & Planning Specialist, Louis Lines, and Andrew Paine, Director of Andrew Paine Architecture, are doing just that.
They took time out of their busy schedules to share their experiences and offer up advice to others in their position.
Balancing Work And Family
The big cliche surrounding parenthood is the tiredness that accompanies it. However, as Chris Conway explains, the tiredness is often borne out of poor time management and is not an inevitability of parenthood.
“You need to be efficient,” he says. “With demands at home as great as those at work you need to work hard to strike the right balance; if one suffers, they both suffer,” he said.
“In the early days of Accounts and Legal, I did some crazy hours. No all-nighters, but some close enough!
Despite being in the infancy of his new role as a father, Andrew Paine acknowledges that while he is mildly suffering from tiredness, the flexibility of running his own business has given greater balance to his new family life.
“I have a little bit of sleep deprivation, but taking care of the baby has been more of a mum thing so far. The biggest thing for me has been making sure I’m available – that can be done by leaving work a bit earlier to get home in good time,” said Andrew.
“That flexibility is part of the joy of running your own business. You can leave without explaining yourself, but know in your own head that you will make up that time elsewhere,” he added.
With that being said, one of the biggest factors that impact time and balance, particularly in London and other cities, is the length of one’s commute. But how does that affect Chris’ efforts at home and in the office?
“Commuting is something you get used to. I use the commute in the morning to get a jump on the day, whereas in the evening I get half an hour of downtime before it starts again when I get home,” said Chris.
For Andrew, he cites the modern technology on trains as a facilitator in getting caught up on or getting ahead, of work.
“My commute is pretty bad at an hour and forty-five minutes each way, but with the 4G and WiFi on trains today they’re well-equipped for pulling out a laptop or tablet and doing work, or even answering emails on a phone. As a business owner, I can justify working during my commute.
“I do try and keep a happy, healthy balance in the office though, and that goes for me and for the team. I encourage work to be done in the office if possible, not during a commute.”
The Important Role Of Your Partner
Both Chris and Louis agree that their commitment to work and their achievements are, in part, attributable to their other halves and without them, it seems, balancing parenthood with business would be nigh-on impossible.
“My partner has been fantastic,” says Louis. “She’s incredibly chilled out, flexible and a really good mother. In fact, I don’t think I’d be doing half as good a job if I was staying at home with the baby!” he added.
“She has been vital. We already had a young family when I moved to Accounts and Legal, so we knew it was going to be tough. But she’s been very flexible in giving me the space to do what the business needs,” said Chris.
“Business is not always on the table, but she has been on the receiving end of a few rants about various things over the years! I think it helps her understand what I do if she hears about the wins and losses during the day,” he added.
Life takes over from work Louis’ new family life has had a unique start, originally living on a boat while he spent the weekends building their new family home. Overall, though, the experience is one which put his family in touch with life and has ultimately helped him to switch off from work outside the office and focus more on life at home.
“The boat was a simple life in that you could pull up by the bank and light a fire or sit out on the back of the boat and watch a squirrel or the ducks. It was more like life and not at all like the city,” said Louis.
“The boat was small though, and when you have two adults and a baby on board how you manage the space is something you need to think about.
“In addition to that, there’s maintenance and the fact that when I got back from work there was usually always something to do – whether it’s fixing something on the boat or going out in the dead winter to find and chop wood for the boat’s fire. I didn’t have time to think of work because life took over,” he added.
Despite leading rapidly growing accountants in London, Chris tries to maintain the same structure as Louis, whereby his time out of the office is spent on family and life, rather than work. “I tend to focus better in the office than at home so I get as much into my days as possible, but in reality there comes a point when the trains stop running and you realize it’s time to go home.
“That’s a good thing! I strongly believe you should keep some time sacred, so I rarely do more than check emails on Saturday and Sunday. I can’t think of the last time I turned the laptop on at the weekend,” he said.
Trusting staff in the boss’ absence For any business owner, parent or not, their company is their pride and joy and an idea they’ve built from the ground up. Therefore, it’s natural that business owners find it hard to step away and leave responsibility in the hands of their employees. As Andrew explains, it’s something that can require a great deal of learning and transition.
“It’s getting more that way now (the company operating as normal in his absence). A few months ago the team really bed-down and settled into their work. Until that point I did feel under pressure to personally sustain the company,” said Andrew.
“For a while, it was a case that I would turn my back and the office would become loud or unsettled, but the team has really clicked. Once I knew the baby was on its way I was aware the team would have to get by without me, and they have been able to do that when required.
“I was able to go away on paternity leave for two weeks and came back to everything being the same so that’s a good sign for the team,” he added.