Many entrepreneurs and business people have the tendency to put their job or company ahead of their families. This will most likely lead to your family resenting you, you resenting your family, you taking on more work instead of more family time, you going on trips to Vegas, strip clubs, cheating, drug use and then to top it all off—divorce. OK, maybe it won’t be that extreme, but being absent in the lives of your partner and your children is pretty much a recipe for disaster. And let’s just decide today that cocaine and strippers are not a good long-term plan.
As both a parent and a partner it is important that you take the lead, don’t wait for this kind of stuff to just happen, because it won’t. And trust me, you don’t want to be ten years down the road thinking, “man I should have connected with my family more while I was traveling.” That’s ten years of a parent and partner your family missed out on because you were too busy to make it happen.
Here are three practical and actionable steps I take—as a businessman, a husband, and father—while maintaining a fruitful and close-knit family (along with my wife, of course) and a successful business with my friends.
1. Communicate with your family
Make it very clear how much you care about them. You may think you’re clear, but your perception may not be your family’s reality. Communicate this in the way they best receive it, not how you best receive it. If you don’t know what the hell I just said, read 5 Love Languages today. You’ll thank me later.
My wife’s love language—and my kids too—is quality time. I tend to want to do things quickly. So I have had to learn to slow down and be present with them. I try, when I get home, to turn off the phone and not work. Just by adding this simple step our quality family time goes through the roof.
Tell your kids and your partner that you love them, miss them, and can’t wait to get home as often as you can. And give out LOTS of hugs and kisses. Don’t make the excuse that you weren’t ever told “I love you” as a kid, or that affection isn’t something you were raised with. “I had a bad childhood, so I don’t know how to hug,” is not an excuse. You can either be the change, or you can be mediocre. It’s your decision to inject good into your family’s life, so do it.
2. FaceTime is your friend
No longer do you have to miss everything while you’re gone. Have your partner FaceTime you at the kid’s soccer game. FaceTime in during dinner to have a meal with your family.
Often when I am traveling there are significant gaps in which I have meetings, so just make it happen. If your partner is super organized then plan it out before your trip and book it on their calendar. If he or she is more spontaneous then just call when you’re in between meetings.
I look my kids in the eye many times every day and tell them how proud I am of them. I give them specific examples of why I’m proud and say, “I love you” to them as often as I can.
My son is 5 and just started playing football. During one of my trips he ended up making a big play for the first time. The next time I was on FaceTime with him I talked to him about it and told him how proud I was. And then when I got home I did the same again and gave him a big hug.
These interactions with your children may seem small, maybe not that big of a deal, but doing this consistently over the span of their 18-year childhood makes a huge difference.
3. SAY NO
I had an important trip that had been planned for a while. But I’d already been on a number of business trips that month. I was traveling back-to-back like that in order to be able to take two months off of work completely. This was the last trip of that crazy month. It was already paid for and everything. But when I walked in the door, returning from the trip before the last one, I could just tell that I needed not to go on that trip. I knew I needed to be home with my family.
There was no immediate problem with me going. My wife and kids would have been fine, but I also knew that they, and I, needed to spend some time together as a family.
When you get that gut feeling, trust it. If I had gone on that last business trip, everything probably would’ve been OK, this time. But if that becomes your habit, not trusting your gut, and saying yes to every trip for the next 5 years, everything would most definitely NOT be fine. Little things—both good and bad—add up quickly over the course of a year.
You don’t have to go on every trip that is offered to you. Create a series of questions to ask yourself before you decided to leave your family for a business trip. If the answer to any one of those questions is “no,” you will find it much easier to pass on the trip.
Does this trip add value to my business?
Do I need to go on this trip, or can I send someone else and have it be just as effective?
Does this trip need to happen now, or can I put it off until a later date?
Am I going to miss out on significant events in my family’s life if I take this trip?
If you have these questions set up ahead of time, and answer them honestly, it will help you to be able to see more clearly what trips are of value, and which are just taking time away from your family for no discernible purpose. For the trips that do add value, you will be able to explain more clearly to your partner and children why the traveling you do do is necessary.
Just by adding these three things to your routine I think you will find that your time with your family is more authentic and fulfilling. Your trips will become more and more purposeful, and you will be communicating in the way in which your family responds the best.
Don’t just talk about it, take action today. Your family will thank you down the road.
Photo: Getty Images