The Family Business: How My Work Made Me a Better Dad


One of the great things about being in the family business is that you get to learn from those you are closest to. My father, for example, taught me a lot about business and a lot about parenting my own children as well. Because of this dynamic, I've always been aware of how work and family life relate to each other, and tried my best to bring the best of my self in each role I play to each part of my life.

I've written recently about the lessons parenthood can teach us as business owners. That topic made me think of the opposite: what can business teach us about parenthood? Here are three of the most important fatherhood lessons that I've learned through leadership at work:

1. Embrace the Unpredictable 

Running your own business means dealing with the unpredictable on a daily basis. Sometimes the printer stops working. A big contract may fall through at the last minute. A previously reliable employee doesn't show up to an important meeting. In short, stuff happens. Along the way, you become a master of adjustment. When the unpredictable happens, you find a way to move forward and make the best of your new circumstances.

Family life presents the same challenges, especially when our children are young. Kids don't think through the consequences of their actions like we do as adults. The training I received at work in managing the unpredictable came in very handy when my daughters were young. As Peter Gasca notes in his article for Inc. Magazine, 3 Reasons Dads Make Great Entrepreneurs, patience and adaptability go a long way towards keeping a family and a business running smoothly.

2. Manage Your Team

Every entrepreneur or business owner knows that they are only as good as the people on their team. This is why it is so important to surround ourselves with good people who make positive contributions and care about their work. A great team makes it easier for everyone to meet their goals. We often learn this the hard way at work and have to make tough decisions in order to move our team forward.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you look at it), you can't fire your kids! Unlike the teams we build professionally, we don’t get a choice when it comes to our kids. That means we have to lead differently at home. At work we have the mindset, “do what needs to be done or else you’re fired,” but at home that mindset doesn’t work. We have to learn different skills when we manage our team at home, because one of ultimate factors in driving results at work doesn't apply.

The sad part is — the kids can fire us! They are actually doing so in alarming numbers. I contend that if kids are doing drugs, have disengaged from the family, are being rebellious beyond the typical norms, these are all signs of them saying “I quit!” They can't move out of the house, so physically they are still there, but mentally they have checked out. If you see signs of this kind of behavior, it's time to do something different to get them back on the team and all working towards mutual goals. 

I've been very lucky in my life to be a part of great teams. From my extended family who support each other at work and in life, to my wonderful wife who has been the best teammate I could ask for as we've brought up our girls, to our daughters themselves who contribute so much to each other and to us — when you have a great team you have a strong foundation for happiness and success.

3. The Bad is Never That Bad

There's nothing like family to give you a sense of perspective on the world. As long as everyone is healthy and safe, the little trials that life throws our way aren't such a big deal. If we work hard and stay true to our purpose, we can overcome the obstacles together.

My work at City Wide has taught me that, while things don't always go quite as smoothly as I'd like, keeping the bigger goals in mind helps make the momentary setbacks less devastating. We face a lot of tough moments as leaders at work — sometimes a client slips away, an employee has to be let go, or a technology failure sets us back. Road bumps are inevitable in business and in family life, and in the moment, these disappointments can feel really terrible. But we get through them and work our way back to success. 

Just remember — this is a journey. It can and should be a fun ride if we learn to keep things in perspective and focus more on the good and less on the bad!

What lessons from your workplace have helped you in your home life? Let me know by tweeting @JeffOddo!