“Either you are going to need to calm down about work or you need to go start your own media company,” my wife told me in our kitchen about two years ago.
At the time, I worked at The Charlotte Observer. I felt like tomorrow’s media companies were being born and I was on the sidelines giving PowerPoint presentations.
I was confident in my ability to launch a media company – but there was one thing holding me up.
This little guy. He was 3 months old.
I was afraid.
How can I take this risk with a three-month-old? Am I being selfish? How would I have time for work? Would I have to work all the time and be a bad dad? Would I be a good dad and lose our life’s savings failing at business?
I quit. I started the Agenda. It worked.
I’m wrong a lot. That’s the tax of making decisions. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that my assumption about entrepreneurship and parenting being a toxic mix was dead wrong.
My main concern was decision fatigue on how to spend my time, working or parenting. Since I’m able to control my schedule, I literally make the choice every day – how much time am I going to spend with my son and how much time am I going to spend working?
But the truth is, you don’t start a company if you can’t handle decisions. You just decide. And it’s much better to decide than to have somebody else decide for you. That said, this puts a premium on marital communication and scheduling. For example, my wife and I are super nerdy about our shared Google calendar, I wake up at 5 a.m. to go to work so that I can be home by 5:20 p.m. and I work late one night a week (mostly events in my business) where I come home after my son’s bedtime.
It’s important to me not to be one of those entrepreneurs that puts parenting on the back burner until their business reaches a certain milestone – I bake work into life and life into work.
I have no time to watch TV. I have no time for hobbies. I have no time to chill. But I do have the ability to pursue work I love and I do have the flexibility to spend time looking at bugs with my son.
Additionally, I have the ability to work with my toddler. I guess it’s working. I don’t know what to call it. We explore together to produce stories. For example, we recently chilled at the Ballantyne Hotel together and brunched at Ink N Ivy together. I’ve been surprised by just how much joy it brings me to work with my son on a project.
Another surprising benefit of being an entrepreneurial parent is that you make friends with customers.
As a new entrepreneurial dad, I don’t have time for a ton of friend happy hours, so if I didn’t make friends with customers, I wouldn’t see a lot of friends. For example, I’ve become friends with Colby from Bojangles’, William from Piedmont Social House, and Blair from OrthoCarolina. I thought asking friends to spend tens of thousands of dollars would be awkward. I thought they’d always be thinking in the back of their head – is Ted being nice to me because we’re friends or because he wants money?
But, I’ve come to learn, that’s not how it works.
Why wouldn’t you want friends as customers?
Friends tell you when you’re not good enough. Friends tell you when you doing a good job. Friends give advice on product development. Friends hold you to a higher standard of accountability. And, you can tell friends the truth about when they’re being a crappy client. Life’s too short to work with people that suck.
There are many reasons to be scared about parenting. It’s really freaking hard.
And there are many reasons to be scared about entrepreneurship. It’s really freaking hard.
But don’t be scared of the combination.