The best decision I ever made was marrying my wife. The second best decision was becoming a dad. The third best decision was hacking my way to living the small business and life of my dreams. This article is about hacking the stay-at-home dad and small business of your dreams. You’re on your own for the wife part.
This is about being a son, a father, and small business owner. This lifestyle is not for the weak-of-heart. In order to pull this off, you’ve got to be on your A-game, and get a lot of help from others.
My Sons, My Teachers
My sons have been among my greatest teachers, and today, we get to be the best of friends. Every day I ask myself, “How does it get any better than this?”
Today, I get to live the life of my dreams, even though it wasn’t always this way. It’s not easy to be a father, and it’s not easy to hack building a small business. It’s harder to pull off both at once.
In fact, the latter can and will often get in the way of the former, which can be tragic for a family. With the help of my wife, I was able to do both. Let me make it perfectly clear that had my wife not helped me financially and emotionally to build my small businesses, I would definitely have been living in a box down by a river, or worse.
I’ll never forget the feeling of missing my dad when I was a kid. Up until the time I was six, my father worked in corporate sales. As a result, he had to travel often, and sometimes overseas. The good news is, dad always returned home with a cool gift; toy soldiers from London, for example. That same birthday, I sat on the front steps of our family home in Waban, Massachusetts. It was about to get dark when my mom poked her head out the front door and said, “Clifford, it’s getting dark outside. Dinner is almost ready. Please come into the house and get ready for dinner.”
“I’m waiting for dad,” and pleaded my case to wait until he drove into the driveway so I could be the first to run up to him and get a hug.
My Dad, Role Model, Entrepreneur
I love my dad profusely, and if you’ve ever missed your father like I have, you know how it feels. Dad passed away almost four years ago as, just after Father’s Day, 2014.
I was pretty sure from a young age that it would be my destiny to be much like my father; an entrepreneur, and a great dad. I always wanted to be like dad, so I made believe a lot as a kid, and I dreamed of being an entrepreneur. I made it, and I thank both my mom and dad. I also became a pretty good dad over the years. The only proof of this lies with the son(s). Don’t take my word for it.
It was 1970 that my dad convinced mom to let him buy into a hotel and restaurant partnership so he could become the general manager, and move us to New Hampshire, so he could be home with the family every night. It was my dad’s dream to be in business for himself. My father told me many years ago that his primary motivation for being in business was being able to be home almost every night. My dad pulled this off, even though he was not a stay-at-home dad. To me, it was the next best thing!
I am a lot like my dad. After his memorial service, someone came up to me and said, “Clifford, you did a great job memorializing your father. When you first started talking, I thought it was your father’s voice, and I turned my head to see you, and I thought, “This man is his father’s son.”
How I Became A Stay-At-Home Dad
It was later in my life, when our boys were in middle school, that I became a true, stay-at-home dad. I was at home with my sons virtually every night through their formative years, after I left the hotel business and began working for myself.
Full disclosure: I was never a stay-at-home dad when our boys were babies. My amazing wife drove that bus, and she did a spectacular job.
One of most-epic family stories goes like this. One of my son’s friends asked him, “What does your dad do for work, and how come he’s home all the time?” (This is leading up to the age when kids love it when their parents aren’t home after school. How do I know? I remember being a kid, and how badly we messed around the house on “snow days” or any other when mom nor dad were home to patrol their turf.)
My son replied, “I don’t know. I think he’s a stay-at-home dad.”
At the time, I worked as a financial planner and investment adviser. Then I started a sales coaching business, and that morphed into marketing automation, content marketing, and conversion marketing consulting. I have had to find my own customers since 1991, when I first started working free of a real boss. I became the boss because I wanted to be with my kids.
How To Become A Stay-At-Home Dad
Okay, here are my suggestions to pull this off if you truly believe you’re ready. If not, keep dreaming out of the box. This is where it all starts, after the obvious, first step.
- Become a dad. Duh.
- Choose the business or remote work you will love most. If you enjoy your work, and keep stress in check, you can be a better parent. Ideally, your small business or work empowers you to do a great job with your kids, because they come first. Freelancing, remote sales, support, and service jobs/businesses such as coaching or consulting tend to scale and fulfill often. Do what you love even if that sounds cheesy.
- Get training. Take some classes for being a dad, read books, hire a coach. I still wonder how come parents don’t take parenting classes. (Maybe this should be #1 looking back on what it was like to be a rookie dad at the young age of 26, with a maturity level closer to 19, according to most who knew me well.) Get some business and direct sales training and experience.
- Commit. It’s your mindset of commitment that leads to being in business for yourself, and being a stay-at-home dad. This is not for everyone. It’s stressful and demanding being in business for yourself. It’s stressful and demanding being a dad. Combining the two is not easy.
- Assess the risks and benefits. Being in business is not for everyone. If you can pull off a quality of work life as a stay-at-home dad keeping a normal day job, cool. But you have to decide if being in business for yourself is the right thing to do for you and your family.
- Create your strategy and plan of action. I can’t tell you how to start your business in this article. Suffice it to say, once you know how to make a living working from home part or full-time, you need a clear strategy, then concise action steps towards naming your business, pricing your services, finding customers, then getting them to pay you so you can deliver your magic.
- Get customers. The next step in starting a business should be getting customers. No, you don’t incorporate, buy a $2,500 domain name, print fancy business cards, buy over-priced home office furniture, and blow through all your startup cash before fearing you need your day job back. Get customers, and get them to pay you.
- Spend less than you make. Do this in your small business, do this with whatever you can afford to pay yourself, and save the difference! You will need to pay your taxes on time if you are self employed. You will need to manage your expenses, cash flow and finances well to pull this off without losing your mind.
- Keep the family first. It’s easy to let your small business suck the life out of you. Think about the cost to your family. Yes, it’s true I wanted to be a small business owner first. But the driver of this was always to be at home every night with my sons, not necessarily to run my business from home, even though it turned out that way.
- Learn to micro-balance. Balance is bull@#$% when you think about it. We’re constantly micro-balancing. We can thank your brain and central nervous system for this. But when it comes to your family and your small business, you’re will learn over time to micro-balance the many responsibilities and pressures of being at home, and running your business part or full-time. It’s up to you.
- Practice radical gratitude. Almost every day I write in my journal all the things I’m grateful for in my work and life. I believe this practice has been one of the most-powerful ways I’ve been able to pull off.
- Never stop learning and teaching. If you are me, maybe 30 years from now your kids will be entrepreneurs too. We learned from each other the entire way.
If I Can Do This, Maybe You Can, Too
In closing, I’m typing this article on a Sunday morning. It is Mother’s Day, and today is the also the day we get to celebrate our oldest son’s 30th birthday. I am sitting in my office, and I still feel like a stay-at-home dad. But the kids are long gone, and my wife I get to see them often because they live close to us in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Looking back, I’m eternally grateful to my wife, sons, family and friends who helped me become the father and small business man I am today. There is no way I could have pulled of being a stay-at-home dad while building the small business and life of my dreams without the help of many people.
The truth is, I’m blessed to have somehow pulled this off. How does it get any better than this?