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6 S'pore Entrepreneurs Share Their Heartfelt Thoughts On Being Fathers

Every year, on the third Sunday of June, a special occasion is celebrated to honour fathers around the world. This year, Father’s Day falls on the 21st of June. We spoke to 6 entrepreneur fathers about maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and asked if there was a time when they wished they could have done better as fathers.

Hugh Mason, Cofounder of JFDI Singapore

Hugh is well known in the startup community for running JFDI, an accelerator program in Singapore. 

Hugh Mason and son.
Hugh Mason and son.

1) How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance being a father and a business owner?

It’s so hard. I have a son and up until age 6 they want their mums, then from 6-12 they want Dad and nobody else will do. My sneaky trick has been to encourage him to start off with Javascript, thanks to a great book that Meng found called Javascript for kids. We also like to have children visit at JFDI — there are toys and kids chairs in our space deliberately so that when small people come by they feel at home.

2) Was there a time when you wished you could have done better as a father?

So many times! I think one of the challenges today is that there are different expectations of what a father should be. The old notion that’s sometimes described as the ‘penetrator/provider’ model has gone out of style, and some of the new expectations are very hard to attain. So it’s easy to hang yourself up trying for the very best of reasons to be something that’s impossible. I came to realise that time is the most precious thing I can give my son — uninterrupted emotional presence. And that’s hard when you run a business.

Kelly Choo, Cofounder of Brandtology

Kelly is the cofounder of Brandtology, an online social media monitoring system which was acquired in 2011. 

Kelly and family
Kelly and family

Here’s what Kelly has to say:

Raising a baby and doing a start-up are not so different after all. Both demand a lot of your time and emotional commitment, and you need to work with multiple stakeholders. As a new father of a 2-month-old girl, I realised a few things:

  1. You never truly realise how much your own parents love you until you have a child of your own.
  2. The baby (especially when very young) has the most equity. Everyone needs to follow his/her schedule and moods. Also, negotiations don’t seem to work!
  3. The baby’s learning of new skills are like introducing exciting new features in a product. You would review it and try to “market” it to anyone who bothers to listen.

Unlike an actual start-up, this “start-up” of a baby has little room for failure. It’s difficult to “pivot” a baby this young; instead, parents have to “pivot” their raising methods and the father has a key role to play too.

Happy Father’s Day!

Roger Egan, CEO of RedMart

Roger is the CEO of online groceries site Redmart, which employs over 450 employees.

roger egan
Roger with his 10-month-old son

1) How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance being a father and a business owner?

My son Wyatt is 10 months old.

I hang out with Wyatt in the morning before I go to work, and try to get home to put him to bed at around 7:30pm. My wife and I then eat dinner and usually, I have to go back to emails after for a while.

2) Was there a time when you wished you could have done better as a father?

I have prioritised spending time with the family, but yes, as an entrepreneur, you have to make sacrifices. Family time definitely suffers, and I am very grateful to have such a supportive wife who makes following my dream possible.

John Tan, CEO of Controlled Commodity

John Tan is the CEO of new fashion portal Controlled Commodity, and an active angel investor.

John Tan and son Camper
John Tan and son Camper

1) How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance being a father and a business owner?

It helps that I don’t work for anyone and am therefore flexible with my time. That said, the wife complains that I think/talk about work all the time, so I try to have dinner at home and spend time with the kids. I usually work from home for another couple of hours after the kids go to bed. Spending time with the kids during the weekends helps as well. And also family vacations.

2) Was there a time when you wished you could have done better as a father?

All the time. Like when I know the kids are not in school during the holidays and are home watching TV, I think about bringing them out to do something fun. I have the luxury of being able to take time off work during a weekday afternoon, but I’m often consumed by meetings and work and all the other stuff that comes with being an entrepreneur. As VCs like to say, having an idea is one thing. Doing it is another.

Eric Koh, Cofounder of TripZilla

Eric is the cofounder of travel portal TripZilla, and was also the CTO of Jobscentral.

Eric Koh and Family
Eric Koh and Family

1) How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance being a father and a business owner?

I’m like 25% work, 25% family & kids, 25% personal time and 25% sleep. I am suitably challenged by the stress from work and family, and derive satisfaction from everything.

2) Was there a time when you wished you could have done better as a father?

In hindsight, there’s always something I could have done better. But what’s done is done and I never dwell on negative thoughts like how I could have made it better for my kids.

Ian Tay, Cofounder of Pixaroll

Ian Tay is the cofounder of Pixaroll, an app that allows you to easily turn your digital photos into printed ones.

Ian Tay and daughter
Ian Tay and daughter

1) How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance being a father and a business owner?

Outsourcing to get better results and free up more time. I’m a great believer of on-demand services to plan my routes, so I can get more done even while commuting.

2) Was there a time when you wished you could have done better as a father?

All the time! Kids grow up fast. Once you take your eyes off them, you feel that they have grown so much in a day! So sometimes, I feel guilty about spending the whole day at work.

To all families celebrating Father’s Day this week, have a good weekend!

 

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