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Peyton Anderson rode his first business to the top of the dotcom boom and, starting about the time his first child was born, back down again. Since then, the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, entrepreneur has started another company and adopted twin daughters. But Anderson knows that while he can take another shot at business, he only gets one go-round at parenting. And being an entrepreneur and a parent don't always mix.
"I have three kids 4 and under," says Anderson, who's the 39-year-old founding CEO of Affinergy Inc., a 12-person biotech firm projecting $1 million in 2005 sales. "And even while I'm singing to them in the bathtub, in the back of my mind, I'm grinding on stuff at work."
Naturally, Anderson has a business plan to make sure Affinergy stays on track. Just as naturally, he has a combination business/parenting plan to make sure he doesn't allow his entrepreneurial bent to affect his parenting. His main tactic is scheduling work around time spent with the kids on weekends and before they go to bed.
"I can do a lot of work from 9 p.m. to midnight using my wireless laptop and sending out e-mails," he says. "And I try to keep Saturday [open] all day to do things with the kids." He also flexes his schedule to stay home late some mornings and drop the children off at school. "I can come in to work at 9:30 one morning, because I know I'll stay late that night," he says.
Entrepreneurs are right to be concerned about the effects an entrepreneurial career may have on their children, says Anna Beth Benningfield, a Dallas psychologist, family therapist and business consultant. Children of entrepreneurial parents risk feeling ignored by a parent obsessed with making a startup successful, she says. "By that, I don't mean just working long hours, but being so emotionally invested in the business that there isn't a lot of energy left for kids and family," says Benningfield.
While some kids get too little quality time from their entrepreneurial parents, others may get too much stuff. Entrepreneurs who are financially successful, especially if they came from a low-income background, may tend to spoil their children by giving them too many things. "It comes out of a good motive," Benningfield says. "They want their kids to have the things they believe will make them happy." She points out that entrepreneurs would be better off helping their children learn to work, save and sacrifice for the things they want instead of handing everything over on a silver platter.
Entrepreneurial parents have positive things to offer their children as well as challenges to overcome. "A lot has to do with the way the kids see their parents dedicate themselves to the business," says Benningfield. Entrepreneurs who involve their children in the venture, by employing them or simply including them in activities such as business trips and days at the office, demonstrate that dedication and commitment can be fun and rewarding.
Long hours at the office can turn into long hours of positive parenting when entrepreneurial parents make children feel like part of the enterprise. "It's when the parent keeps saying they'll come to the ball game and never does that children can feel deprived and begin to distance themselves from parents," Benningfield says.
Like many entrepreneurs, Anderson hopes that realizing his entrepreneurial ambition will someday allow him to be an even more devoted parent. "I have aspirations of being financially successful with Affinergy so I can have a lot more flexibility to spend time with my kids," he says. "I hope my son wants to play [peewee] football, because I've said all my life, I want to coach him in that. If we [make] significant money with Affinergy, I can do that."