“I’m doing all this for you.”
You may recognize this statement. It’s the common cry of the busy entrepreneur who expends so much time and energy on their business that they have nothing left to give to their family. One entrepreneur I know, whose father owned a factory where he worked seven days a week, still calls this “The Big Lie” of business.
Today, most entrepreneurs understand the need to try to balance their business and family lives. But that doesn’t make it any easier. And it’s not the sort of problem you share with other friends in business, the way you might discuss a supplier problem or cash-flow concerns.
But the need for greater life-work balance was a major topic at the Mastermind Talks event in Toronto in May, 2013. Organizer Jayson Gaignard even invited Jim Sheils to speak—he has made a career out of bringing entrepreneurs and their children closer together.
Sheils made his first million a decade ago, buying and selling foreclosed residential properties in Bakersfield, Calif., along with his childhood friend Brian Scone. They then relocated their real-estate activity to Jacksonville, Fla., but they stayed involved in “mastermind” activities where they worked, played and talked alongside other ambitious business owners. Sheils became a sought-after speaker on topics such as personal development and wealth creation, helping other entrepreneurs emulate his success.
But in the “board meeting” getaways they enjoyed with other entrepreneurs (so called because they spent at least half their time surfing), he soon discovered that his colleagues had worries they rarely talked about: how to connect with their families and whether their kids would make the right choices in life.
“Entrepreneurs are extremely passionate about their children,” says Sheils. “But people get so focused on their work that they neglect their kids.” At one “board meeting,” he found that every parent had a child with addiction problems. Sheils promised himself that would never happen in his family—and he vowed to help other entrepreneurs overcome this common disconnect.
That’s when Sheils and Crone decided to reinvent their entrepreneur retreats to include children, to help parents and kids learn from each other and see each other in a whole new light. Their company, Board Meetings International (BMI), now offers regular retreats that focus on “experiential education.” Its curriculum includes learning to surf, role-playing and customized board games, all of which are designed to help children bond with their parents while learning the principles of wealth creation and goal-setting—without ever realizing that’s what’s going on.
“There is no substitute for quality time with your children—not money, not things, not fancy private schools,” says Sheils. “You want to be the first person that your child comes to for advice, before their friends, before the internet.”
Sheils noted that the connection works both ways. “My dad took up surfing at age 70,” he says. “We became closer than ever. I even donated a kidney to him.”
But you don’t have to attend a BMI event to forge more meaningful relationships with your children. Shiels says any entrepreneur should set aside time once every quarter to have a formal “board meeting” with each of their children. He says this should last at least four uninterrupted hours. “It shows you have the same respect for your children as you do for your investors,” says Sheils.
His ground rules: just one child per meeting. No spouse, no siblings. Focus your full attention on one child at a time. No electronics (for either one of you). Combine a fun activity (surfing? swimming? skiing?) of their choice with time for focused reflection. Listen closely as you encourage your child to talking about their goals, their problems, their questions.
Sheils says the result will be a closer connection with each of your children. Both generations, he says, will benefit: children gain a new sense of purpose, meaning, and connection, while mom or dad gain new confidence in the way they “show up” as a parent, mentor and friend.
If you want to forge a new relationship with your kids, you might start with what Sheils calls the six pillars of wealth and happiness:
- Confidence Mindset
- Entrepreneurial Vision
- Financial Empowerment
- Conscious Contribution
- Quality Connection
- Energetic Health
“This is what we’re all working for,” says Sheils. “When I see people who have built a better, deeper relationship with their child, they now consider that as their greatest wealth.”
Rick Spence is president of Canadian Entrepreneur Communications, a Toronto-based business writer, speaker and consultant dedicated to entrepreneurship and helping businesses grow.
More from Rick