This post is part of a series of Professional Parents Profiles where working parents around the world share their stories and experiences of family work balance. Whether you own a business, would like to or work full or part time, you can share your story too! Together, we can all share ideas and inspiration to find better balance. Please contact me. Renee 🙂
Today’s Professional Parents Profile is Josh Steimle, 40 year old Founder/CEO of digital marketing agency MWI. Based in Hong Kong, Josh is father to a girl and boy aged 7 and 5. He started MWI in 1999 after working at a dot-com during the dot-com mania in the late 90s. Josh explains “it finally got to the point where I was looking at the guys running the company and I thought “I can do this.” So I did. Not quite as well as they did it, but it’s worked out.”
Here’s the rest of the interview in his own words.
Brief description of “Life Before Children”
My wife and I were married for 8.5 years before we adopted our first child, our daughter. I’d like to say we took advantage of this time to get to know each other really well and build our relationship, travel, and do all the things we knew we wouldn’t be able to do once we had children. But instead, I worked 80-100 hour weeks on the business and we hardly saw each other. Frankly, it was hell, and my wife is a saint for sticking with me through it all.
How does this compare to “Life After Children”
I decided to make changes in my life, and forcing the issue of having children by adopting was part of that. When we decided to have children, I already knew I didn’t want to be absent from their lives. I knew being a workaholic entrepreneur meant they wouldn’t know me. So my wife and I worked together to craft a lifestyle that allows me to work from home most of the time. Ironically, now that we have kids, my wife and I get to spend a lot more time together than we ever did before we had kids.
(Approximately )how many hours a week do you work?
30 to 40 I would say. Exercise is a priority for me (see http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245224), so I run 10-12 hours per week, which doesn’t include prep time. That takes a chunk of my time each week. I also don’t work weekends. And our rule is that at 5 pm I walk out of the home office and come to dinner, and I generally don’t get back on the computer after, or if I do, it’s just something quick. Because of the boundaries we’ve created, there isn’t much time left for work, and that’s how I like it. Work isn’t my highest priority, and curiously I find this makes me much more productive with the time I do have for work.
Are there any particular laws/initiatives in your country/location that support working parents?
Not that I know of…
What are the main challenges in your country/location in terms of achieving balance?
Real estate in Hong Kong is expensive, so we live in a smaller space than I would have in the US, and that can present challenges when I’m on phone calls with clients. Sometimes my wife has to take our kids in another room, shut the door, and keep the kids occupied so that they won’t make noise while I’m trying to close a big deal. It works most of the time, although every once in a while I hear crying and screaming and try to shield the phone so the person I’m talking to can’t hear it.
On the other hand, our small place is a blessing because while I’m working I can hear a lot of what’s going on all day. I pity the fathers who miss out on what I get to experience.
Any professional qualifications/training you’d like to mention?
I have a masters of information systems management, but I don’t use it much 🙂
What was one of the most unexpected things about becoming a parent?
Learning how selfish I am. I had this vision of what a great parent I was going to be, and then I become one and realize I just want to do what I want to do. It’s been hard for me to work past that.
What is one of the greatest wishes for your children?
I want them to be happy. That’s the ultimate goal. If you’re happy, nothing else matters. The only true responsibility I feel is to teach them how to find happiness on their own.
If our kids are happy, truly happy, then I’m happy, so it’s all good.
One of the moments you are most proud of in the last few months?
A few days ago one of our kids gave an unsolicited hug to our other kid. I felt like throwing my arms in the air and cheering. It gave me hope that this whole child-rearing thing is going to work out ok.
One of the biggest challenges in the last few months?
Earlier this year we found out my wife has multiple sclerosis (MS). This means she has good days and bad days. We’ve had to hire full time help, which is common here in Hong Kong but something we were uncomfortable with. Having to explain to our kids that mommy has a degenerative disease, dramatically changing our family’s diet, bringing a stranger to work in our home—it’s been a bit of a challenge, although there have been many blessings as well.
Share one of your favourite resources for working parents (website/book etc.)
The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. It opened my eyes to what’s possible, and showed me that I have a lot more control over my life than I ever thought I did.
What kind of work does your partner do?
The work that really matters 🙂 She’s the primary nurturer in our family. She stays busy supporting the kids in all they’re learning and doing.
If you are a single parent, any other tips or experiences you’d like to share?
My wife was raised by a single parent. I try to empathize but understand there’s no way for me to truly know what it’s like without experiencing it, which I hope I never do. For single parents I would even more emphatically recommend reading The 4 Hour Work Week. If you can imagine how great it would be in a two parent family to only have to work 4 hours per week, just imagine how much more important that would be to a single parent.
What do you love about being a working parent?
The parent part more than the working part. I love what I do for work. I love running a business. I love what I learn from it, and what I’m able to do for others. But it’s secondary.
What do you think is a myth about being a working parent?
The biggest myth is that you have to work. I know, there are parents who just can’t imagine how they would survive working any less than they do. But there are ways. That’s what the 4HWW is all about.
Do your children go to school/daycare/alternative child-minding? How often?
They go to piano lessons, gymnastics, dance, art, meetups, etc. But it’s all managed by me or my wife, mostly my wife.
Do you and how do you support other working parents?
Our business has about 14 employees. and offers them unlimited vacation and sick days. We pay the full cost of health benefits for our team members. Our team is allowed to work whenever, wherever they want, as long as they get the work done.
Describe your office
Small, sometimes messy, and there is a big stack of pictures from my 7 year old on my desk.
Describe your “typical” day or week
Monday and Thursday – wake up at 4 am, get ready for my run, leave by 5 am. Get home around noon or 1 pm. I listen to business books while I run, which I consider an important part of my job as a business owner, because I get a lot out of them. I also frequently slow down to answer emails, check Twitter, etc. Get home, shower, have lunch with the family if I haven’t missed it, then work until 5 pm. Then family time until the kids go to bed at 7:30. Then my wife and I talk, and then go to sleep around 9-10 pm.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday – Wake up at 5-6 am, shower, breakfast as family, then work, lunch together, work, dinner, family time.
What are one or two of your favourite products or services?
We provide SEO and other digital marketing services. I love doing something that helps other entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
What was one of the most unexpected things about starting a business?
First, that I didn’t immediately get rich. Second, that I didn’t care so much about getting rich.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 1 year? 5 years?
A year from now we’ll be about 3 times larger. I’m also working on my first book, a business book, so I expect to be a published author and be doing more speaking. In 5 years I’m planning on being back at school to get a PhD in business strategy, and I expect my business partner will be running the business.
What advice can you give others just starting out in business?
Don’t quit right before what you’re doing succeeds, and don’t be so stubborn that you don’t change what you’re doing when it isn’t working out. And don’t be so hard on yourself if you’re not sure whether to keep on pushing forward or quit.
Is your partner/family/friends supportive of your business?
Yes, everyone is very supportive. I wouldn’t be here without the support of my wife.
What is your favourite thing about being in business?
We humans are driven to create, and being an entrepreneur is all about creation. Having an idea, and then turning it into reality. That’s the power of God, isn’t it? Is there anything more fulfilling than creating things, and creating things that make a difference in the world? Sure, some entrepreneurs just want to make money, but most of those I know care little about the money and want to do something to make the world a better place.
What do you think is a myth about being in business?
That it has to look a certain way. The work week doesn’t have to be 40 hours. Employees don’t need to only get a certain number of vacation and sick days. As long as it works, and the government will let you get away with it, you can run a business any way you please.
Your top tip/s for Family Work Balance:
There is no balance, there are merely actions and consequences, or outcomes. There are lots of good choices out there, but what’s good, what’s better, and what’s best? Having a great job is a good thing. But is it the best thing, if I have to choose betweent that job and spending more time with my family?
I’m glad I have the choice. Some people don’t have a choice—they have to work all the time just to make ends meet. Hopefully it’s a temporary situation for them. But I suspect for many of us, especially those reading this, we have more choices than we want to believe. There are a lot of parents who think they can’t spend more time with their kids, but they have a nice house, nice cars, and go on a nice holiday every year. I lived in Brazil for two years and saw real poverty, I saw families that had nothing, but they had happy kids and healthy family relationships. They had what many wealthy people would pay anything to have, but can’t, because their kids are grown and the opportunity has passed.
Because our family relationships are that important to us we home school. We only have our children until they’re 18 or so, and then they’ll leave. We want to maximize the time we have with them, but home schooling takes a lot of time and effort. As a result my wife doesn’t have a career outside the home, and I don’t do all the things I would like to do professionally. We make sacrifices. We don’t try to balance, we look at the outcomes we want, and create plans on how to get those outcomes.
The thing is, spending more time with family, even home schooling, doesn’t automatically mean earning less or sacrificing the nice house, cars, etc. I make a lot more money today, working 30-40 hours per week, than I did when I was working 80-100 hours per week. And it’s not as though I can only work 30-40 hours per week because I used to work more and “invested in my future” and am now enjoying the dividends. Quite the contrary. I only started making more money once I cut my hours down. That forced me to make better business decisions because I knew I had limited time, whereas before I was working under the illusion of unlimited time.
Any special offers or giveaways for readers?
If you’ve got a business doing at least $1M USD per year, and you’re ready to take it to the next level, we’d love to give you a free consultation to see if our agency would be the right fit for your digital marketing needs. http://www.mwi.com