Community service: we spend time as a family once each month doing community service. To be honest, I always dread the hour leading up to it. But I am always happy and thankful after I do it.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Lavinsky. Dave is the president and co-founder of Growthink. Over the past 20 years, Growthink has helped over 500,000 entrepreneurs and business owners start, grow and exit their companies with an emphasis on business planning and capital raising. Dave has guest lectured on business planning at top universities, personally written over 250 business plans, developed best-selling business plan templates and software, and has written numerous articles for Forbes, Entrepreneur magazine and other top news outlets. He is also the author of Start At The End: How Companies Can Grow Bigger and Faster By Reversing Their Business Plan, published by Wiley in 2012. Dave has an MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.
Thank you so much for joining us, Dave! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in Long Island, NY. My parents were both teachers and then special education guidance counselors for the New York City Board of Education. One of the key benefits of their jobs was that they were both home for dinner every night and we always ate together as a family. And because they had modest salaries and were off during the summers, we spent our summers camping and spending tons of time together.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
Per my family’s focus on education, I attended business school at UCLA. There I hoped to gain insight and education that would help me launch a chain of smoothie bars (this was in the late 1990s when smoothie bars weren’t prevalent).
In business school, my concept changed and I developed a smoothie product that could be purchased in stores. Just when I was about to launch, my wife became pregnant with our first child and wanted to quit her job. I put my smoothie business on hold and began writing business plans for other entrepreneurs to pay the bills. The demand for this ended up being so great that I launched a company to do this and we’re still developing business plans for firms twenty years later.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I wake up at 6am and eat breakfast with my daughter. I then walk the dog with my wife and head to work, arriving by 8am. At 5pm I leave work to either go to the gym or for a run. I’m home everyday for dinner by 6:30. We eat dinner as a family then. And then, if the kids have no homework, will watch a television show together.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
Kids need role models. That’s how they learn to act; through modeling others’ behavior. If they spend their time with caring parents, they can become caring, loving individuals. Without spending time with their parents, they may find other role models who are less loving and provide the wrong behaviors to model.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
The more time kids spend with their parents the better. Ideally this time allows them to feel loved, which is critical. Also, letting children know they are smart is crucial to their self-confidence. A child who feels loved and smart can achieve anything. Without those two things, future success in anything becomes much more challenging.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
To spend quality time with our children, my wife and I do many things as follows:
- Eating dinner together as a family nearly every night. During our dinners, everyone has an equal chance to speak.
- Going on vacations. We take two to three vacations each year. Vacations allow us to all be together in new environments and spend lots of time together.
- Limiting mobile phone use: No mobile phones (parents included) are ever allowed at the dinner table. We also have a 9pm mobile phone curfew. Putting the devices away allows us to spend uninterrupted time together.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.
- Put the mobile devices down. Attending to something that happens on your phone in front of your child tells them your phone is more important than they are. Putting your phone away (in your pocket on vibrate mode is fine) also gives you extra time to spend with your children.
- Practicing real time management. I schedule all meetings and To Do items on a calendar. As a result, my schedule doesn’t allow for items that force me to work past 5pm and thus miss out on time with my family.
- Do hobbies that the entire family enjoys, particularly healthy ones. My family frequently goes to the gym together. Because this is something I’m going to do regardless, it’s so much better that I can do it with my wife and children and we can spend time together doing something positive.
- Community service: we spend time as a family once each month doing community service. To be honest, I always dread the hour leading up to it. But I am always happy and thankful after I do it.
- Playing sports with the kids: my kids both play lacrosse, and even though I never played as a kid, I learned to throw and catch. I’ve spent countless hours having lacrosse catches with my kids, talking about all kinds of important things throughout the time.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
Being a good parent means spending quality time with your child and making them feel loved and smart. If your children feel loved and smart when they leave the house after high school, they can achieve great things.
Also, you must nurture their talents. My daughter is an aspiring singer-songwriter. My wife has helped her land singing gigs around town. And whenever she has a gig, we invite all our friends to attend. Seeing a big crowd of her friends and family is a huge boost to my daughter’s confidence.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I inspire my children to dream big by researching others who have achieved the success they desire. Both my kids want to be musicians. So, I did research into which famous musicians did and did not attend college. And if they attended college, I documented where they went to school and what they majored in. Whether they attended college or not, I then researched what the musicians did that helped them achieve success. This helps my children dream big — because they can see how ordinary people became music stars.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
I define success as being able to live a lifestyle that you enjoy and are proud of. For me, that is living in a town that I love (Bend, OR where I moved a few years ago), and spending time with my family at home and on nice vacations. I could always work more and earn more money; though doing so would decrease my happiness and make me less proud of who I am, thus making me feel less successful.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Watching college sports inspires me to be a better parent. Broadcasts often show the athletes’ parents cheering them on from the stands. Most often, these are the parents that spent countless hours with their children taking them to practices and games and giving them the confidence they needed to be successful student athletes.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is from Jim Rohn and is this: “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I have always tried to spend my time with quality individuals and people that inspire me, and I ask the same of my children. The more time we spend with quality people, the better we personally will become.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The movement I would inspire would be an anti-addiction movement. Anything that could be done to get people to lessen their addictions to mobile phones, social media, video games, gambling, nicotine, alcohol, and drugs would make people so much happier and would make the world a much better place.
Thank you for all of these great insights!