Three years ago, during a start-up event, I distinctively remembered a young upstart Brian Wong, founder of Kiip, mentioned that start-ups should not hire people who have kids. Wong explained that people with kids will not be able to commit full-time to the business, as compared to those who have no family commitments.
I wasn’t there at the event, but having a short lunch talk with John Fearon, another panelist, who gave me his two cents worth. He has a family to watch over and what motivates him is his family and his drive to succeed. I didn’t have much to comment at that time. However, now having my third child due in the next month, it got get me thinking, was I a better entrepreneur when I was single or am a better one now with family?
Angels Gate Advisory sees an average of 10 start-ups a week for our free advisory sessions and we have seen a rise of entrepreneurs with families coming to see us, hence this topic is a good time for discussion.
Brian Wong reminds me of my earlier days. When I graduated and returned from overseas, I was filled with bombastic, youthful, arrogant energy, thinking that I was armed with a degree, I knew about just everything. I worked till wee hours in the morning in the office on various projects to get the company going, hiring like-minded people like myself who were young and single. What made me more bold was to continue taking up every possible business opportunity to learn more and experience more. I worked hard and clocked many hours. But did I truly reach my goals during those years. Sadly, I fell short of these goals.
Was I a good entrepreneur as a single? As I reflect the last six years of entrepreneurship before I married Mrs Right, I found myself taking very big risks (which a number didn’t pay off), working towards things that were not long-term and ended up with failures. Was it due to inexperience? Maybe. But let’s compare the difference here when I became married.
I got married at 30, 6 years after I graduated. I found myself realising life isn’t all about myself. I wish I could work wee hours into the morning, on weekends and committing time to my entrepreneurial pursuits, but that changed. Family time with the wife was important and it meant giving up opportunities that I would like to do. It becomes even more difficult when you have a kid or two. And being a hands-on father, I found myself in need of extra help from the grandparents to chip in while I get time-out to work.
What has changed between singlehood and being a family man? When I was single in my 20s, I gained the chance to learn as much as I could. I also was very brash and didn’t concern myself with consequences of my business decisions. But now being a family man, I found myself thinking ahead for the family, what decisions I make will impact the future and security of my family. I took that mindset back to the businesses I ran, and I find myself doing the same, accessing the different outcomes and being more sensible in my decision.
When you have a screaming kid who is difficult in putting her to bed, you learn patience. No matter how much she cries and how long it takes, you know you will reach that end-goal, getting her to sleep. It may tire you out but you find the satisfaction knowing that you can reach that goal. This is something I also learnt and brought it back to the business.
Talk about finances. Family finances are the hardest as you need to place your children as priority. You start to reduce your personal expenditure on yourself and focus on saving for your children. In business, I found myself making simple decisions to save on non-essentials but pour in more money into marketing, which is the same as a child. Both are investments for growing the business and your future respectively.
Angels Gate Advisory has also teamed up with Crib, a social incubator that empowers women to be entrepreneurs. Through my chat with Rachael, Match Program Director of Crib, we are now seeing a rise of mumpreneurs, mothers who need to be there for their young children and yet wanting to do be productive economically. A question begets us… are these mumpreneurs any less effective in being an entrepreneur who is single?
So the eventual answer to my question, do entrepreneurs with family make good entrepreneurs? I am inclined to say yes, based on my personal experience. Family entrepreneurs, as I call them, may not have the quantity of time to work on, but the quality of time spent is well-used. This is of course whether the family entrepreneurs knows how to use his family experience and take it back to the business he or she runs.
So if you are an entrepreneur who is single and running head-on to grow your business, it doesn’t hurt to have a partner who is a family man. The combination of quality and quantity time may just produce a very successful spark of an idea!
I am always happy to hear more stories from entrepreneurs with family commitments and how they are handling their business and children. Please feel free to pen down your comments!
Note: The writer is director and mentor at Angels Gate Advisory, a pro-bono advisory incubator that supports Singapore entrepreneurship.
This article is the third of the ‘Startup Advisory Clinic’ Series.
This article first appeared on Tech in Asia.