Parenting, the pandemic, and starting a small business: What’s it really like?
Startups sat down with Nick Coleman, CEO and Founder of Snaffling Pig, to chat through some of the burning questions new or prospective fathers may have when starting a business
Starting a business and being a new father. Is it possible?
Founding a startup while being a father to a small baby “is no easy task,” says Nick Coleman, CEO and Founder of successful pub snack startup Snaffling Pig. In fact, he warns against starting a business as a matter of flexibility. “Starting your business is a massive commitment – I’m tagging a full day’s work onto a morning of childcare,” he says.
It potentially explains the findings of a study conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), which revealed the most popular age bracket to start a business in the UK is 18-24. Coleman himself was eight years into the business when he had his first son Jack, which meant there was “more security, and the business was more settled.”
The data also revealed that 50% of people in the UK start a business with profit and high wealth in mind. If this is your motivation, alongside having a family, Coleman’s personal experience of building a successful business reveals that having a desirable work-life balance is, in fact, “a myth.”
According to Coleman, your business is “an extension of you, so your home-life works around that. I’m lucky I have a very supportive wife who believes in what my business partner Udhi and I are building. I honestly couldn’t do it without her.”
So what’s it really like balancing a business with being a new dad?
According to Coleman, it requires teamwork, efficiency, and flexibility.
“It’s all about having a great team around you,” says Coleman. Coining the phrase “it takes a small village to raise a child”, he explains that “it couldn’t be truer when you’re trying to grow your business, be a good boss, and be a present dad and husband.”
However, even with all the additional help onboard, when it comes to balancing a new business with being a parent to a small baby, Coleman says that efficiency is key. “If you want to be home for bathtime, you have to focus on the job at hand in the office. I had to learn to delegate more, too.”
Flexibility is also an important part of the Snaffling Pig culture. As working dads themselves, both Coleman and his business partner Udhi make sure the team has the same flexibility as them when it comes to prioritising family.
Coleman has never advocated a “culture of presenteeism” at Snaffling Pig, while he and Udhi “wanted to get away from the whole ‘first one in, last one out’ culture”.
He goes on to say that they’ve had “people bring their kids into the office on occasion,” while he also fully supports employees working from home when necessary.
In fact, Coleman says that “lockdown has been a revelation in terms of just how effective remote working can be.” He also thinks that “more small businesses will review their flexible working policies in the future.”
What’s lockdown been like as a father with a business to run?
“Lockdown’s been a real leveller,” says Coleman. “We’re all showing a more human side, bringing our colleagues into our homes through video conferencing – and sometimes, there are hungry kids in the background.”
For Coleman, it’s all about showing understanding and empathy to other parents in the team who are also juggling home-schooling and work. “I’ve had to do Zoom calls with my two-year-old and keep him quiet with popcorn snacks, so I can work on an issue with our team.”
Describing his own experience of lockdown, Coleman says: “Right now, I look after our son in the mornings then come into the office early afternoon, staying here till around 11pm. It’s not easy – but equally, I’m having time with Jack I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I have a huge respect for all working parents out there.”
So what’s Coleman’s advice for those starting up or thinking about starting a business?
When it comes to providing a great place for parents to work, Coleman’s advice for startup and small business owners is to trust your team. “Seeing how the team has stepped up throughout Covid-19 has been such an eye-opener, and I’ve been blown away by their commitment.”
“Don’t take the ‘we’re the boss' approach. And don’t give yourself privileges or flexible options you’re not prepared to offer the rest of your team. In startups, you have the benefit of being agile and flexible with your team – so make the most of it.”