It takes a child to make a new man of you
By Luke Johnson
Published: June 25 2008 03:00 | Last updated: June 25 2008 03:00
...But becoming a father has a healthy, humanising impact, putting all the stress and ambition into perspective.
And so I have found that the favourite small talk in the 21st century among entrepreneurs is not football - thank God - but discussing one's family, as a civilised contrast to all that wealth accumulation. This is the first generation of New Man executives, whose chief hobbies are not golf and drinking but their children. These business leaders can not only close a sale or raise venture capital but they can also change a nappy, baby-sit and talk knowledgably about schools and exams.
This is a huge behavioural change from their predecessors of the 1960s and 1970s. The old-fashioned boss delegated all child-rearing to women: the wife or perhaps the nanny. He was rarely there for carol concerts or parents evenings - sometimes he was not even there for the birth. He was too busy building a fortune and, in the evenings, socialising with work clients or bankers. But, nowadays, I'm not alone in regularly slipping out of the office early to be home in time for the children's bath and a bedtime story.
Will we make better dads? I hope so. Will it compromise our careers and stunt our material success? Will our children thank us for the extra attention? Who knows?
...Those who marry and have children young face tougher choices. Do they go all-out for success and perhaps miss their children growing up? It is pretty hard to get ahead if you are willing to do only short days and never work at weekends.
...I have met plenty of alpha males who have achieved great things but sacrificed their personal lives along the way. Often they divorced because they were never at home. Sadly, material success tends to come at an emotional price.
... (la question à cent balles)
Should entrepreneurial fathers want their offspring to follow in their footsteps?
Everyone should decide their own path in life, even if there is a family company to inherit. Dynasties and nepotism only work if the candidate has genuine talent and appetite for the role. For those who are the offspring of renowned patriarchs, I advise pursuing a completely different profession, so unfavourable comparisons are impossible. As 19th century humorist Austin O'Malley said:
"The worst misfortune that can happen to an ordinary man is to have an extraordinary father."
I was lucky in that my dad taught me to make my own way in the world and believe anything is possible. It is sad that so many captains of industry have a single overwhelming regret: that their father never lived to see them become the conquering hero.
After all, entrepreneurs and children ought to get on well since they are similar in many ways: impatient, self-centred, demanding, enthusiastic, energetic and wilful. At board meetings it can occasionally be difficult to tell them apart. But, perhaps, that is what makes them fun to have around.
The writer is chairman of Channel 4 and runs Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm