It’s a scene a lot of working parents are familiar with—crib next to crib next to crib, filling an entire room at a daycare center. After six or 12 weeks of maternity leave, you and your partner are faced with the reality of what it means to have two 9-to-5 working parents in the house.
Michael Barnhill couldn’t bear it. “I didn’t want my son in a crib eight hours a day,” he recalls. Barnhill’s wife had a corporate job, but as a co-owner in a company, Barnhill wondered if he could do things a little differently.
Co-owner of Specialist ID, an ID badge accessories company based in Florida, Barnhill works with his very supportive younger brother. Abandoning the daycare option, Barnhill brought his infant son, Logan, to work with him four days a week until Logan was 1.
That wasn’t the first time he had made a change either. When Logan was born, Barnhill was working at Specialist ID during the day and bartending at night. And while bartending was part of the family’s financial security, he knew it was no longer the right thing for him as a father.
“I resigned from the bartending gig,” he says. “I didn’t want to be working those late nights. But it was a big risk (financially).”
Baby on Board
For Barnhill, having Logan in his office was an incredible bonding opportunity. Plus, it meant he didn’t miss out on his son’s major milestones.
“A lot of his firsts happened in our office,” he says. “Those were amazing moments.”
In addition to his supportive business partner, Barnhill discovered supportive customers too.
“I used to take a lot of sales calls, and I’d have to stop because he was crying,” he recalls. “But I had so many great conversations. We had so many people who were caught off-guard and happy to hear what I was doing for my family.”
During Logan’s first year, Barnhill’s wife, Eliza, worked with her schedule too, opting to work Saturdays in order to have a weekday off to be home with her son. Together, they found a way to do what was best for their family and their careers.
But as Logan became more mobile, having him in the office became more of a struggle.
“When he was younger, I could push him in the stroller,” Barnhill says. But, as parents know, mobile children want to move and explore. Around Logan’s first birthday, they moved Logan into daycare.
“We wanted him to start socializing,” Barnhill adds. “And it felt more comfortable at that age.”
Integrating Fatherhood and Business
Today, Logan is 5, and Specialist ID is a 15-employee company that’s been on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies for the past two years. Barnhill is still finding ways to be an awesome dad, a productive entrepreneur and a personally fulfilled individual. And he’s making progress. Here’s how.
Focus on what you do well. “As a dad, I’m more productive,” he notes. “I think by wanting to be a good dad … I don’t feel tied to the things I hate doing. I focus on the things I’m good at now.”
Today, he’s out of the company’s day-to-day operations and instead focuses his time on management, growth strategies and product development.
Have an awesome business partner. “There are a lot of moving parts, and I’m really lucky that I have an amazing business partner who is also the uncle to my son,” he says. “He’s a very driven worker, and he does a lot of things I can’t do.”
For years, the brothers weren’t paying themselves, as they were very focused on growing the business. But now, with increased business success, they’re able to travel more for seminars, meetups and conferences — and vacations too.
“One of us is gone all the time, and one of us is always here,” Barnhill says. “We’re very supportive of each other’s growth and development.”
Strike balance with your partner at home. “My wife has had an amazingly successful career,” Barnhill says. “It’s a very demanding job.” Meanwhile, Barnhill works from home most days, and he enjoys the flexibility of being able to manage school drop-off and pick-up each day.
It’s a luxury he knows a lot of parents don’t have, but through the sacrifices of his entrepreneurial career, he’s gained this flexibility that he’s eager to take advantage of.
Find a personal passion. Barnhill and his brother have a shared passion for music—they play guitar and sing and have co-workers who play drums and bass with them. This creative diversion helps keep them sane and engaged.
“In the last year and a half, I actively started pursuing the things I wanted in life in addition to being a family man and father,” Barnhill says.
He started running (and ran a marathon!), and at 40, started boxing because he made exercise a priority.
And music is more than just playtime, too. “I want to win a Grammy at 42,” he says.
Focus on experiences. There was a time when Barnhill was stressed and obsessed with work. Focusing on exercise and music helped. Then, he also saw the value in completely detaching from work to be with his family and experience life.
“Creating experiences for my family is probably my No. 1 pursuit,” he says. “Our getaways have been amazing.”
Whether it’s getting out in nature with his son, family weekend road trips or bigger vacations, Barnhill has learned to be truly present with his wife and son.
“It’s hard,” he acknowledges, “but you’ve got to.”