David Hieatt is a mission-driven serial entrepreneur and author. With his wife, also business partner, he’s built three businesses that have all earned commercial success and cult status - Howies, The DOLecturesand Hiut Denim. They live together with their two daughters aged 17 and 14 in Cardigan, West Wales. Follow him for wisdom, inspiration and the odd poke at the ridiculousness of life.
A young family needs a lot of attention in the early years, just like a business. I know everyone tries to get a balance, but that’s the source of much stress because there is no balance. You’re trying to attain the unattainable.
When you start a business, your mind definitely goes somewhere else. Businesses are great when you run them, but they can also run you. The battle is making sure they don't. Over the years I've been training myself to not think about work at home. If there's something bugging you, write it down then pick that paper up tomorrow.
A lot of people are super busy but they're not really focused. Money doesn’t go to effort, it goes to smart thinking. I always ask myself where I can focus and use my time the best. Working for three hours with no distractions is the same as eight hours of work with.
I use my time well. In peak summer my commute can be two minutes because of all the tractors. It’s 3pm on Monday and I’ve finished most of my meetings at Hiut for the week now. I do go away for work, but try to do it as little as possible.
My dad, bless him, is no longer with us. He worked in the merchant navy. When he got the call to go he'd be away for three to six months at a time. He was supporting the family in the best way he could. Ships paid more than the factory, so that's what he did. I’m lucky enough to have different options. For me, failure is not being around the dinner table. I’m happy building global businesses as long as I can be home dinner. It’s not an either or, I think you can have a wonderful life and business and be home for dinner.
There are moments you don't forget. It was a Friday in autumn, golden leaves shining in the sun. We had a birthing pool in the house, midwife in the room, Beth Orton playing. The only person on drugs was me, on the Lemsip.
It is an incredible moment for you as a mum and dad, but also as a human being. It’s funny because such a miracle is, also, pretty normal.
They change your world on the first day, but it didn't change my perspective on things for quite a while. Young babies do an awful lot of sleeping, so there isn't much to do. They're either sleeping, eating, or pooing. But when that first smile comes along, that's when they hook you.
As they grow older, it keeps getting better. Each age is beautiful, each changes you. You find yourself having these amazing conversations with these amazing young ladies. You start off thinking your role is to be the teacher, but really you’re learning just as much as you teach.
There’s that quote, before you have children, you're the picture. But when you're a parent, you become the frame. I like that. It’s no longer about you, you're there to support the picture. The way we work is an interesting one. We’re business partners, husband and wife, and mum and dad.
For my wife, it’s really important to be there for the kids. Caring for them. She takes it upon herself to be there and worry about everything. She takes the lead on that for sure because she wants to. It’s her absolute priority.
I tend to do all the breakfasts, my wife takes them to school in the car. She loves cooking so does all of that. I do the dishes, but as my kids point out in jest, that doesn’t really count.
Yesterday, my eldest had some friends round. One need a lift home and my daughter asked me. She can drive though, but wanted me to. On the way back she said she wanted to come because she missed the chats. She’s thinking of going to college next year, ‘so you’ve only got her until next May’ she said. And I was there thinking 'bloody hell!'
My mum says they grow up so fast, I brushed it off as one of those silly things people say, but it's true. Studies show that in life, 80% of time spent together as a family happens before they go to college. We’re close to that 80% now. It makes you think about the time you spend together. Things like half term and actually having a nice holiday. Not that it's the end of course, and once they've flown the nest, they will come back.
Over the last few years, I've begun to understand what real presence means. Sometimes I've not been super present. There in body, stressing about the business in mind.
The hardest thing is to see them unhappy, because sometimes there's nothing you can do. You love them but know you can’t take all the punches for them, you can’t stop them feeling pain. Being the observer when you don’t like what you are observing, but that's the deal. It’s tough, but that’s all part of the ebb and flow of life. When you see them fly though, it’s the best thing in the world. It’s an extraordinary feeling, one of the best that any parent can have.
Social media’s a challenge. Growing up in a world where everyone can see everything they do and everyone can judge. Thankfully we never had to experience that kind of pressure, but they don’t know a world without it.
We’re into all the social media stuff, we love it, but there is a downside to it. We encourage the girls to switch off and develop a fairly thick skin. If every comment took a bit of you, there wouldn’t be any of you left. I think it's about trying to get balance and perspective. How do we help them put it all in context? Is it as bad as they think or is it their thinking making it worse?
The most important time for our family is being around the dinner table. It’s the heartbeat of our family. We’re there pretty much every night. It’s magical because you never know quite what will unfold.
Someone might be in a good mood, or bad, up or down. But the conversations are always brilliant. That’s what a family is about, a place you can go and talk about your day, maybe analyse some of the aspects of the day, talk about tomorrow.
They really want your presence and your happiness. You quickly learn how good they are at mimicking behaviour. If they see you stressed and worried, they learn stress and worry. If they see you happy and full of life, they learn that. It can be a one-way street though. It’s ok for them to have a paddy, but not you!
I look at every part of my life and ask how can I improve it. When it comes to being a dad, I think about how I can inspire, teach and connect more with them. You’re always looking for ways to be better. I think every parent asks that question. It's important to ask it near daily, otherwise you slip into complacency.
You want to teach your kids a set of values that they think are so important, they won’t do things to endanger them. That's all you can hope as a parent. Giving them good manners, a good way of seeing the world, looking for the good and not the bad. If you can do that, then you’ve given them a code for meandering through this wonderful thing called life. A code backed up with ferocious bravery and willingness to try amazing things.
You want to fill them with the confidence that they can go and do the incredible. You don’t want them to live in the real world, you want them on a path to changing it, pushing it on. Giving them that strong set of values means they have a foundation to build on. That’s the least a parent can try to deliver.
Lucky. I feel very lucky to be a dad. I know friends who can’t have children, so I'm humbled by it. I feel lucky to be married to such an amazing woman and an incredible mum. Lucky just to be around the table with them all.
I've learnt so much from my children about being a better human being. The future is definitely female, especially in my house. Seeing the strength of character and being around the dinner table is brilliant. They’ve got ferocious determination, complete confidence and strength of character.
Some people just don't realise what they've got. Even when everyone’s arguing, it's still brilliant.
What does being a dad mean? To have that beautiful life, being around the dinner table, eating simple food with people who are trying to find their way in life. It’s a beautiful gift. You’re lucky and learning every single day.
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