Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Father’s Day Balance Sheet

I had wanted just to post the link to this article but then I decided to put it full on my blog just in case post was archive and remove. It is worth keeping it permanently. Please read it for all its worth…. God Bless!
The meaning of Father’s Day has changed for me over the years. My father has been gone a couple of years now, and my kids are almost out of the house. I’ve been a father for 28 years, an entrepreneur for 32. As with any demanding job, balancing the responsibilities of parenthood with the responsibilities of the business has been a challenge. My perspective has changed, and I write today’s post for the benefit (I hope) of younger parents, fathers and mothers, who are dealing with this struggle.

People used to tell me, “There is no old man lying in his death bed wishing he would have spent more time at work.” When I used to hear that, I understood and felt confident that I wasn’t one of those guys who were out of whack. I didn’t travel too much, I was usually home before the kids went to bed, and we took some vacations. The words I would use to describe my 32 years in business include drive, excitement, disappointment, resolve, adventure, fear, satisfaction and progress. I have a new word to add to my list: regret.

I avoid using it in business because I have learned that while torturing yourself can be useful in learning a lesson, it can also be a waste of time and bad for the psyche. I have made hundreds of mistakes over the years and would like to think I have learned from them. I have learned not to look down and not to look back. That is why I love business. You usually have an opportunity to improve things and make them better, using your new-found wisdom from your latest mistake. The end of each year is an opportunity to start with a clean slate.

But your kids’ childhoods don’t work like that. Whether it is that gut-wrenching day when you drop them off at college, if you should be so lucky, or the day they move out, there is an end to their childhoods. There is no going back. And there is plenty of opportunity for regret.

While you are at battle every day to build the business, or even just to stay in business, it is easy to justify skipping the vacation, coming home late, or working on the weekend. The harsh reality is that it is sometimes necessary. And sometimes it is not. That is where the regret comes in. I was home, but was I really there? Or was I thinking about the bank loan? Or the problem employee? Or the end of my lease? And then there is the pushing for fast growth. Instead of enjoying a few years of sanity when you finally get things under control, you seize the opportunity to expand and get in more trouble! It is hard to control ambition, but like many things in life you can have too much of a good thing.

I went to dinner years ago with a neighbor who had taken over his family’s business. He casually commented, “I’m sure you have your kids’ college educations taken care of.” I said no, not a dime. It was all in the business. I was not surprised that he had money put away. He was running a very successful business that, to his credit, had grown considerably after he took it over from his father. What surprised me was that it apparently had never occurred to him that not everyone in business was in the same financial position he was. He took more vacations than we did, played golf regularly and belonged to a country club. He didn’t work weekends. I don’t think he lost a lot of sleep over paying bills. It didn’t really bother me; I just knew that I was in a different situation.

Which gets me to my Father’s Day (and belated Mother’s Day) wish for all of you who are raising a family while trying to raise a business. Add one more thing to your list of goals, along with more sales, increased profit, improved products or service, lower debt and whatever else. Call it an investment in your kids’ childhood equity: time spent going to the zoo, taking vacations, helping with homework, playing catch, baking cupcakes, doing whatever your kids want to do. And doing them even when you are tired, frustrated, distracted and broke.

They really will be on their own before you know it, and you will be running (we hope) a successful business. Here is the million-dollar question: Would it be better to be worth 20 percent less and know that you went out of your way to spend as much time as you could with your family? At the end of each year we look at the income statement to evaluate our company’s performance. Maybe we should do the same for our personal life. We could call it the outcome statement. It might give a whole new meaning to the term “balance sheet.”

Happy Father’s Day.

By : Jay Goltz

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