“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Zac Barnett of Fund Finance Partners

An Interview With Dr. Ely Weinschneider

A child’s self-esteem is tied, in large part, to how they are treated, valued and cared for by their parents. If we spend too much time “giving time” to everything else in our lives ahead of our children, we are teaching them that they are less important to us — and therefore the greater world. Moreover, if parents don’t make the time to engage with their children the more apt they are to seek out other role models that may or may not have their best interests in mind.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Zac Barnett. In his 20 years of experience as an attorney in the fund finance space, Zac is considered a pioneer of the industry. He has represented investment banks and fund sponsors on some of the largest, most complex fund financings, earning him annual recognition in Chambers. His broad range of experience in connection with loans to various real estate, private equity, secondaries, private credit, energy, infrastructure and hedge funds provides FFP with the knowledge necessary to guide fund sponsors through the process of securing various fund financings. His deep understanding of fund formats has led to the development of creative fund finance structures including hybrid and NAV structures and fund of fund and fund of hedge fund facilities, private placements, open-end fund lending structures and several different variations of fund aftercare facilities. As the Global Head of Mayer Brown’s Fund Finance practice and Co-Head of their Global Lending practice, Zac led over 500 fund financings including 350 individual subscription-backed credit facilities. Zac also co-founded the Annual Fund Finance Symposium, now administered by the Fund Finance Association. Zac maintains a high-profile presence in the private equity and fund finance spheres. He is the pre-eminent writer in the space having authored more than 40 articles on various topics relating to the laws, regulations, and structures impacting the fund finance universe. He regularly moderates and sits on industry panels; his work has been cited in a number of prominent publications, from the Los Angeles Times to Bloomberg. “Smart, hard-working and personable — he is able to clearly outline the business issues and come to thoughtful compromises.”-Chambers

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

My sister and I were raised in an exceptionally supportive, nourishing environment established by our parents. My mother was a special education teacher and my father was a warden of a prison. They each worked very hard to provide my sister and I with opportunities they didn’t have. My mother being a teacher and father an avid reader, education was of primary import. My parents also put a premium on spending time outside and being in and around nature; we were raised in a very rural space near many small farms with animals galore. If we weren’t reading, sleeping or eating, our parents wanted us outside, helping with chores, caring for the animals, etc. Now that I have children of my own I understand why they wanted us outside. Children seemingly possess equal parts of inexhaustible amounts of energy and curiosity; being outside depletes the former and fulfills the latter. Looking back, our parents did not apply significant amounts of pressure to succeed academically. It was of course expected but they certainly provided the atmospherics that allowed us to motivate ourselves and truly find our own path.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I’ve experienced all of the successes I could have dreamed of at a large law firm and am grateful for the opportunities and experiences it provided but I was ready for a new challenge and a new platform. I had discussed the idea of a fund finance advisory shop for the last few years with my wife, numerous industry leaders and friends but I needed a partner. I have found just that in my Co-founder at Fund Finance Partners, Richard Wheelahan. I’ve known Richard for over a decade and we did a lot of good work together at his previous asset management firm, where he was the General Counsel. Our abilities mesh well together and we share the same vision in building a firm that puts money back in the pocket of private equity fund investors. These pension fund investments are comprised of a lot of folks’ hard earned dollars and they deserve to have someone looking out for them.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

No alarm clock needed as our 2 ½ year old daughter wakes my wife and I with hugs. If it’s before 6 am, she gets to view one episode of Daniel Tiger while I check email and tend to any items needing immediate attention. I help her with her morning routine and then we head downstairs for breakfast at which time I’m required to “tell her a story”, usually about farm animals. My wife tends to our 3 month old son and then relieves me by 7:15 so I can get ready. She sets the pace, tone, and energy for our days and is the sun around which we all revolve. My daughter walks me to the door everyday by 8 am and if I’m not heading to the airport then it’s off to the office where I’ll have calls and review documents until a noon lunch with clients or others in the private equity industry. Back to work until 5 pm when I’ll take the train home for dinner with the family where everyone must share something about their day. When it’s nice out we take a walk with the dog after dinner for fresh air and exercise. Then it’s the nighttime routine of play, bath, puppet shows, books and bed. On busier days, I head down to my office at 8 pm and work for as long as it takes usually shutting it down around eleven or midnight, but most nights I’ll cozy up in the living room with my wife and the laptop to finish out the day’s work.

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?

A child’s self-esteem is tied, in large part, to how they are treated, valued and cared for by their parents. If we spend too much time “giving time” to everything else in our lives ahead of our children, we are teaching them that they are less important to us — and therefore the greater world. Moreover, if parents don’t make the time to engage with their children the more apt they are to seek out other role models that may or may not have their best interests in mind.

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?

My wife has enlightened me here. One of the most important things a parent can do for a child is to build their self-esteem. We believe that if we plant the seeds of self-worth in our children they can grow to accomplish anything. This would seem infinitely more challenging to do while absent.

Making them feel safe and secure in who they are is another priority. We want our kids to know that no matter their preferences or predilections, they are accepted and embraced. Again, this is difficult to accomplish if you’re not spending the time learning about the little people that they are. If all else fails, we hug them like crazy. If my children fail to achieve their dreams it won’t because mom and dad didn’t love them enough.

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 few stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

My wife and I have daily, weekly and seasonal routines and traditions that help tie our family together. For example, every night we have dinner together, we say grace, and we share details about our days. It may only last 30 minutes but we listen and laugh together and it’s the comfort of a routine that goes a long way to help kids feel safe and valued. I try to make it home for dinner every night but even on nights I can’t, I have a part of my daughter’s nighttime routine — a puppet show, and part of her weekly routine — a soccer class that I take her to on Saturday mornings, that my wife helped me set up so that I stay connected with her. We value family time above all else and my wife is the perfect partner in this sense because she respects my time and handles countless home obligations and chores so that when I’m home our only focus is on time together. We outsource what we don’t need so that, I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t even change light bulbs anymore because it’s all taken care of so I can focus on being present with her and the kids. For us, it’s worth it. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my wife’s parents. They’ve been integral to our children’ development and frankly our rest as they are constantly there for us as and when needed.

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.

1. Put the phones down. I’ll never forget the time I was trying to close a deal one night while playing in the backyard with my daughter. She told me “she wanted to go inside because I didn’t want to play with her”. Now obviously there will be circumstances when we need to monitor emails but I do try to leave put the phone down when I’m with her.

2. Schedule activities outside the home. Whether it be library trips, music class or a fishing trip, we’ve found the more scheduled activities we have with the kids allows us to detach from the other obligations we have that trigger the attention drift we’re trying to avoid when spending time with the children.

3. Establish a routine. We’ve found that morning routines (make bed, brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast) and evening routines (bath, puppet shows, stories and books) provide necessary structure that leaves little ability for distractions to creep in.

4. Get on the floor. Getting down to their level and remembering what it’s like to be a kid again tends to make one forget about the everyday demands that steal so much of our attention.

5. Include them whenever possible. Work is a part of our lives but that doesn’t mean it needs to be separate. Take your kids to the office every so often. My partner Richard and my daughter have a good relationship and I’m lucky enough to have one with his son and daughter. Work is unavoidable but if they can feel involved then they’ll be more understanding on those occasions when it does interfere. They are all owners (beneficial or otherwise) in our growing firm and deserve to be treated as such.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

One that willingly sacrifices their personal interests in favor of the betterment of their children. I am sure they did but I can’t think of any instance where my parents splurged or did anything for themselves. Everything they did they did with my sister and I in mind. Some may say that is unhealthy but I view it as inspirational and am eternally grateful for their sacrifices.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

This question may be a bit premature for us as our oldest is nearly three years old, but we’re certainly going to expose them to all we can, encourage their interests and support their aspirations, whatever they may be. We’ve all seen parents “steer” or “pressure” their children and that’s probably why we have so many unhappy adults. “Dreaming big” to us means following your passions, whatever they may be.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

This is very simple; if we’re winding down at night and my wife tells me that she’s proud of me then I know I have succeeded. All of the work related accolades and achievements mean very little in comparison.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I confess that I’m not into parenting books but my wife read several and bookmarked chapters that she thought were important for me to read. How Children Succeed, The Happiest Toddler on the Block, Brain Rules for Baby, and Mindset — which emphasizes a growth mindset, were some of our favorites. A similar theme throughout all of them is nurturing your children’s emotional health and teaching emotional regulation skills. My wife is also a big believer in non-toxic living and follows blogs like Wellness Mama, Gimme the Good Stuff, the Minimalist Mom, and The Green Mama. We believe kids need less “stuff” and more hugs. The biggest gift I can give my kids is telling them I’m proud of them — it’s a struggle raising kids in the US today where everything comes easy but I hope someday they’ll share our same values.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Many great quotes to choose from here but this is one that reminds me of my mother and her early reminders to me. There will be those that doubt you at various stages throughout your education, career, etc. You can either succumb to that doubt or overcome; the decision is yours and yours alone. Answer it correctly and positive outcomes await.

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?

I don’t know about influence but I do know that teamwork is spectacularly underrated both inside and outside the workplace. If more people would recognize the impact work-sharing, collaboration and information exchange inside and across institutions has we could increase efficiency ten-fold. Unfortunately, short term preservation instincts take over and individuals are reluctant to support each other, share credit and attribute reasons for success. Studies have shown team builders are transformational for both big and small businesses; unfortunately society has taught us to protect our little corner of the world rather than combining those corners to produce a larger platform. Establishing joint ventures with colleagues and co-workers results in increased innovation, widened support networks and better performance metrics. Naturally, there is often additional work in the short term and you may have to postpone some gratification but I think you’ll find that when it comes to teamwork, the juice is worth the squeeze. At least that’s what we believe at FFP (fundfinancepartners.com).

Thank you so much for all of these great insights!

Thank you for including FFP in the exploration of such a worthwhile subject.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Dr. Ely Weinschneider, Psy.D.

Written by

Psychologist and Relationship Expert

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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