Having lived the better part of my youth in startup culture, one of the least popular topics I've encountered is managing the demands of being a parent while meeting the demands of running a startup.
There's so much emphasis on working insane hours and growing quickly that managing a family just becomes something you figure out on your own. As a company, we want to build a strong "family first" culture.
We've spent a lot of time talking about this. The topic is basically "how can we hack our work day to build an amazing startup and an amazing family at the same time?" It's way too early to tell if our approach will work, but here’s how we’re getting started.
A New Batch of Parents
In the past few years most of us at Fundable have become parents for the first time. And in a strange twist of probability, almost all of the men have had daughters, which is great, because all of our little ladies get to grow up together.
But it's also been an opportunity for us all to grow up together as parents. Instead of just one of us trying to explain to everyone else that we have to take our toddler to swim lessons, we're all taking our toddler to swim lessons.
Committed to being Great Parents
Early on as a team we made a commitment to creating a culture that would be supportive of our roles as parents, not just employees. None of us wanted to grow our careers at the expense of our children.
I distinctly recall one of our team members explaining this challenge during his initial interview.
He said "At my last job, my wife and daughter visited me at work all the time. I remember being so busy that I always told them I couldn't talk right now because I was too buried. I don't want to be that guy ever again."
We couldn't agree more. None of us want to be "that parent" who looks back and says they had to sacrifice the childhood of our kids. Eff that.
Family First, No Questions Asked
Startups demand insane hours, so it's tough when everyone is working like crazy and you have to be the one guy that raises his hand at 4:00 and says "I have to leave to do something with my family". It makes you feel bad because you think everyone else assumes you're not pulling your weight.
Instead of groaning, or whatever the emoticon for that is in Instant Messenger, we encourage it. We high five people for being great parents.
We know that being productive and participating isn't a problem – our team is incredibly hungry. But shifting focus to spend quality time with family is an important value for us, so we get behind it 100%. We think simply supporting our team emotionally is a big step in the right direction.
Bring Kids to Work
At any given time throughout the day, our spouses will bring our kids to the office to play with us. It's fantastic. Everyone in the office gets up and plays with the kids. Meetings stop immediately for anyone that sees their family show up.
Spouses don't need to schedule time. They can show up whenever they want. We want to thread our time with our families into our work day, not just our nights and weekends.
Even if it's only a half hour in the afternoon once a week, it changes the dynamic of our family time in a meaningful way. It also gets everyone else in the office to see that our families are awesome, not just a distraction from working. Calling our families a “distraction’ sounds awful, but when people are leaving in the middle of projects, it’s easy to forget why.
Become Part of Our Events
We do lots of activities throughout the week, from yoga to hockey to grilling out. These are all great opportunities for the families to show up, even if just to hang around and make fun of how awful we are at sports.
Usually this only happens during forced company meetings at holidays and one-off "team building" exercises that everyone pretty much dreads. We have a fun team that enjoys spending time together, so we leave the invite open to anyone that wants to join. And they do, which is awesome.
Show up for Dinner
Most of us come from a generation of two parents working, single parents and divorce. Put simply – we come from a place where lots of empty seats were at the dinner table every night. We want our kids to have a different story when they grow up.
Leaving "early" from work often means 7pm. Kids usually eat sometime before 8 p.m., so we need to make sure we're getting our team out of the office and headed home for those important hours. The fact that most of us will just go back to working after our kids go to bed is a totally separate story.
That's just the Start
Fortunately this isn't a topic where we have to go very far to find fellow parents. If you've been working in a company that does an amazing job of incorporating the demands of startup culture with being a parent, we'd love to hear about it.
There's simply no downside to doing this incredibly well and we want to be great at it.
Wil Schroter @wilschroter is the co-founder and CEO of Fundable.com. Wil has founded 9 companies including Virtucon Ventures, Fundable.com, Blue Diesel, Unsubscribe.com, Affordit.com, GotCast.com, Startups.co, and Bizplan.com.