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Fathers Day 2021 SOCIAL images_4 Faces
Happy Father’s Day 2021: Impact for Good

Every Father’s Day, we like to celebrate male entrepreneurs who are running successful businesses whilst being awesome dads. (Here’s last year’s article).

This year, for Father’s Day 2021, we’ve got four men who are making an impact for good and a positive difference to the wider world.

As ever, it’s a bit of a longer blog, but once we get guys talking about their families and businesses, there’s always lots to say! They’ve got some great stories that will inspire you, so let’s get on and meet them…

The Dads

Alex Smith is the Founder and CEO of Harrison’s Fund, a medical research charity for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a life-limiting condition. He has campaigned and spoken alongside Lords and MPs, successfully bringing a medical innovation bill into law. Alex completed a fundraising Ironman triathlon, bringing his son Harrison along for the ride, and won the Just Giving Outstanding Commitment to Fundraising, ‘The Mirror, TSB, Pride of Sport – Charity Challenge of the Year’.  His story was also made into a documentary, ‘The Challenge’.

Menno Siebinga is a physiotherapist specialising in longevity to unlock more vitality, more life and more meaning in people over 50 than they ever thought possible, turning them into Superagers. He’s helped a 91-year older woman to be walker-free and enabled an 88-year-old to grow 4cm taller! At the other end of the age scale, Menno, together with Sebastian Bates of The Warrior Academy (who we featured in our 2019 Father’s Day article) has also created the Not A Victim Programme giving parents the tools to help their children break through bullying and earn a black belt in resilience for life.

Charles Banks is the director and co-founder of thefoodpeople. He’s spent the past 30 years in the food industry working across all sectors including food service, fine dining, hotels, food brands and food retailing. He is driving trends and future foresight in the food and drink industry and is now also driving food education for children and young people.

Rick Lyons is the co-founder of Three Point Five, a company that provides climate change training within organisations. They offer workshops that explain the causes and potential consequences of the climate crisis in a simple and engaging way. Three Point Five also teach people what they can do to help, as well as techniques and strategies to engage others in climate action.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY

AS: My name is Alex Smith, I’m the dad of two wonderful young men, (Harrison, 14 and William, 12) and a Cockapoo, Margot. I live in Surrey and am an ex long-distance triathlon lover currently into a bit of Olympic lifting, CrossFit and long hikes with the dog.

Alex Smith, man smiling at camera

Alex Smith

MS: I am Menno Siebinga, 42, born and raised on the biggest island in the Netherlands, called Texel. I live there in the smallest village with my Indonesian wife Anneke, and our three children – Fawwaz, my elder son 18, Tessel 9, my daughter and Zeev, 6 my little boy.

CB: Hi, I’m Charles, a fourth-generation food obsessive! I live in rural Devon, just outside Exeter where I live with my wife, 3 children and our black lab – Truffle! We’re obviously a foodie family, love cooking and eating together, and making the most of where we live, exploring the local food scene, the beach and the moors.

RL: Hi, I’m Rick. I’m a 45-year-old dad of two boys, aged 4 and 10 months. Their names are Toby and Elliot. I’m married to their mum, Rachel, and we all live together in a flat in Hove.

Now, your business: What – AND WHO – led you to where you are now?

AS: In 2011, aged four, my elder son Harrison was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic muscle-wasting condition that is life-limiting. I gave up work nine months later to set up Harrison’s Fund, focusing exclusively on trying to change the outcome for all those with Duchenne and therefore save Harrison’s life.

We search for and fund groundbreaking pre-clinical therapies and initial laboratory ‘idea’ work. I’m also a Non-Exec Director tasked with ensuring our patient focus and that their voices are heard. The biotech’s first asset is a Duchenne therapy borne out of one of our research grants.

MS: My business is called Body & Brein, we enable people to feel more alive and connected, no matter their age or circumstance. So no one needs to stop living prematurely or unnecessarily.

I came into this field because of my injuries when I was a teenager, being bullied. Then later, through treating seniors as a physio I saw the lack of understanding and implementation of how to make the second half of your life the best half. I experienced this again when I took care of my mother 24/7 for three years when she slowly became locked inside of her own body with a neurological disease.

CB: We, thefoodpeople are in the business of future trends and foresight for the food and drinks industry.

Having run innovation teams I always struggled to find thought proving and inspiring trends information that really brought the future to life. I also had a burning desire to have a greater impact on the industry that I love. My business partner Wayne feels the same so 16 years ago (and 1 year in the planning) we started thefoodpeople.

Our intent is to shift the future of food and drink and we have an obsession with supporting industry to believe in the future. Consumers are moving at a pace far greater than the industry…and if you harness the power of trends you have the ability to control your business’ destiny and the growth opportunities that will arise. We now also have a charitable arm, helping children and young people with their relationship with health and food.

RL: A large part of why we started our own business is honestly because I didn’t feel like I had many other options! I completed a Master’s degree in climate change and my ideal job would have been to work for an NGO or think tank, coming up with policy ideas, particularly around reducing emissions from transport. About 40 job applications later, I realised my ideal scenario wasn’t going to happen. Nor was any employment scenario, it seemed, in the climate change space.

One day Rachel and I began throwing ideas around about a business we could launch together. She has worked in corporate training for years and the logical combination was a business that provided climate change training – and so Three Point Five was born.

The business name comes from the theory that in order for real, transformative change to take place, you need 3.5% of the population pushing for that change. We see our role as helping to build that 3.5% of people who want to see real, meaningful change to tackle climate change.

A year on from launching, it’s been…eventful. We had our second son, Elliot, shortly before the second lockdown and the pandemic threw us sideways a bit. I had to take on full-time childcare duties for a while. 

Things have settled down now though and it feels like we’re really beginning to build momentum. In retrospect, I’m very glad that we went down the entrepreneurial route. I think I am harnessing a latent entrepreneurial spirit I suspected I had, but wouldn’t really have made use of unless given a bit of a nudge. 

What are your typical days or weeks like? How do you balance your work with fatherhood?

 

AS: I’m fortunate to now have two secondary school-aged children which gives me the scope to really focus on the work we do during the day.

My time typically revolves around the forward-looking strategy work for the charity, searching the globe for credible science as well as keeping up to date with our Harrison’s Fund team. We are all ‘virtual’ and I’m incredibly lucky to have wonderful people that have the latitude and empowerment to work independently. I trust them all implicitly.

I find myself running from one task to the next but have had to really make myself very disciplined to switch off from work and focus on time with my children when they are here. When you know you may well have less time than you might have dreamt with a child, every moment is precious.

MS: The typical week is Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for client delivery days. Monday and Friday are work-from-home days, on these days I can wake them up, get the children ready for school, pick them up, do activities with them and get them to bed.

At the weekend I work before the kids are awake, the rest of the time I am there for them and myself. I am not fond of the idea of ‘work-life balance’, because I believe it gives the wrong focus. When I work, I work fully, when I am with my kids I am fully there.

If I’m working with my kids around, I ask them not to interrupt me unless it’s necessary. We created a magical word that they can use when they need me. So then I know I have to turn my attention to them immediately or I tell them I will finish this and then will give my full attention. 

Menno, man looking at camera with grey t shirt on

Menno Siebinga

CB: Up until COVID my weeks were incredibly varied. I spent a lot of time travelling, which certainly placed a strain on family life.

Since then, however, we’ve shifted the majority of our business online which has meant much more working from home, so although I travel less, the upside is that I now see much more of my family. I can get involved with school pick-up and after-school activities.

In addition, from April 2021 we’ve been trialling a 4-day working week across our business. We work slightly longer each day but as we all get the benefit of a Friday off, every week is a long weekend! We took this decision during COVID as we could see the effect that the pace at which we work was having on our teams and we wanted to continue to be progressive (we championed virtual working 16 years ago) and put the long term wellbeing of our people first – and even more time with my family!

RL: Our eldest, Toby, is in nursery three days a week, but that means there’s still a fair bit of childcare to do. We have to look after Elliot full-time and Toby on Mondays and Tuesdays.

We generally have a super-flexible approach to what you might call the division of labour. This means we decide on an almost day-by-day basis who’s going to taking the lead on childcare and who is focusing on work.

This tends to work pretty well. It can be frustrating at times, with devoting so much time to childcare, you can feel like you’re not making the progress you could or should with the business. On the other hand, I feel like have a really strong relationship with my sons, especially the eldest, and I wouldn’t want to sacrifice that. 

This year, our focus is on dads making a positive impact to the world. Tell us how and why you are doing just that…

 

AS: Simply put, I want to save my son’s life. If I can do that I know I will have, in some way, helped save many sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, from many families around the globe.

Perspective comes into fast focus in situations like ours and it becomes clear that it’s such an overwhelming privilege to age. Many of us get the chance to live a lifetime, I desperately want to be able to give Harrison and others like him the chance at a lifetime too.

 

MS: I make a positive impact by turning people into Superagers. I’ve made a 91-year walker-free, let an 88-year old grow 4cm taller, given an extra 18 months of adventures to a handicapped 69-year-old and got a 50-year-old into the best shape of her life.

Through this, people can stay connected to themselves, the things which make them come alive and their loved ones. We are creating a new norm and standard for what it is to grow old – or as we like to say, ‘Forget to Grow Old’.

Book Cover of Not a Victim

Buy Not a Victim, by Menno Siebenga and Sebastian Bates here.

I’m also involved in the Not A Victim programme with a book, two bedtime stories and a global training program to help children build resilience.

 

CB: In 2020 we realised that to be true to our purpose of ‘shifting the future of food and drink’ we had to do more than just support the industry in identifying and responding to trends: we had to help inspire the next generation to have a better relationship with food and drink.

So we set up the TFP Foundation. The Foundation was established to use food as a force for good to drive better food, health and education in children and young people.

We do this by supporting other charitable entities such as Chefs in Schools and The Food Foundation who are working tirelessly to improve the health of children through better school food & education. They too recognise the role that food has to play in improving the health and education of our future generations.

We donate 1% of revenue and raise more funds through the sale of e-books and online events to support these amazing causes. Since November 2020 we’ve raised almost £30k through the TFP Foundation.

Picture of Rick Lyons

Rick Lyons

RL: I experienced what you might call an almost religious-like conversion when I realised what deep doo-doo we were in because of climate change. I felt quite strongly that I wanted to spend my working life trying to stop humanity from committing the colossal act of self-harm that climate change represents.

Before we launched the business, I didn’t feel like I was doing enough and so looked for other ways to contribute. I became quite heavily involved in Extinction Rebellion in Brighton and also got involved in a local Green Party working group looking at climate change in the city.

The volunteering has pretty much fallen away since Three Point Five, but that’s because I feel that with the business, I’m already genuinely doing something that makes a difference.

What I like about our business is that we’re pretty close to the coalface. Unlike some NGOs and other organisations working in the climate space, we work directly with the people implementing policies – such as putting in low-carbon infrastructure, approving applications for green buildings, planting trees, rewilding public spaces, etc.

Not only are we working directly with those on the frontline to tackle climate change, but we’re also training and helping them to prioritise the environment in their decisions and spending plans. It honestly feels like quite a privileged position to be in. 

 

What do you love about running your own business?

 

AS: I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, it’s in the blood as they say. I’d always wanted to run my own business. The ability to chart my own course, to develop the strategies and to see my team develop is inspirational to me.

After Harrison’s diagnosis, I needed a focus, a direction. Many people struggle to cope and I didn’t want to be one of them. In many ways despite the business being born out of darkness, the most horrific day of my life, diagnosis day… the opportunity to turn that darkness into hope has become the best and most rewarding role I’ve ever had.

And hey, what’s better than doing a job you love, to save the life of someone you love?

MS: I love giving my clients the tools so they can measure, monitor, maintain and master their own vitality. I love seeing the effects on them. I love learning, coming up with new better ways, and I love learning about business so I can increase my output and impact – without feeling like I am running short or lacking in any area which is also important to my life.

RL: When you work within a large organisation, the total workload is sub-divided and separated to the nth degree, so you can end up in a really specialised role, using a perhaps impressive, but limited, skill-set.

Working in a small business is the opposite. You have to be able to turn your hand to lots of different things. This can be a real blessing if, like me, you have an eclectic mix of skills because you get to use them in a way you never would in a conventional job.

So, for example, I enjoy being quite academic, getting my head stuck into some serious, rigorous research and learning new things, which I have to do when designing new course content. But then, I really enjoy visual design so I taught myself the Adobe software suite and designed our website, logo and graphics. I’ve also made an animated video we’re hoping to share soon. That creative side of me would just be getting dusty on a shelf in a regular job.

However, it’s probably one of my two main functions in Three Point Five.

CB: You never stop learning! Running your own business is continual learning from starting with just a team of 3 to now having an international team of 22 people.

The learning never ends from how to lead a team, how to develop strategy, how to public speak, how to articulate purpose, how to sell, how to recruit all things that were alien 16 years ago.

One of the greatest joys are the people that we work with, our incredible team who bring such richness to what we do and our amazing loyal customers, it’s the people that make it.

Lastly, it puts fire in your belly, knowing that the buck stops with you is as inspiring as it is daunting!

What are the downsides Or biggest challenges you have had to overcome?

 

AS: The biggest challenge I have is that I go to work on Duchenne every day and come back to Duchenne in the evening.

Harrison needs a lot of care every day with all the seemingly simple things all of us take for granted; bathing, getting a glass of water, going to the toilet, getting dressed, getting out of bed.

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by Duchenne but it’s so important to remember that there is a ‘me’ in all of this too, a ‘burnt out’ Dad is no good to anyone.

This was how long-distance triathlon training came into my life, I found it gave me the peace to switch off my mind, stop thinking about Duchenne and focus on the next stroke in the pool or the next step on a run.

I ended up completing 5 long-distance events (3.8k swim, 180k bike, 42.2k marathon) culminating in carrying Harrison around one which was covered in the feature documentary ‘The Challenge’ by Salon Pictures.

MS: The downsides are mostly internal, feeling that I might run short on my family or my business.

I have to keep staying aware of my surroundings and their signals and keep reminding them to tell me as early as possible if they feel I am slacking.

Charles, man in suit

Charles Banks

CB: When you run your own business you’re never really off or away from work, there are just degrees of how ‘at work’ you are!

I’m better at it than I used to be, but I’ve had to learn how to switch off and prioritise time away from work. As a business owner, there is always ‘something else to do’. Having great people around you that have complementary skills to you is a huge help!

Not working on a Friday was very difficult at the start but we have to set the standard, be disciplined and the team will follow.

Obviously, one downside is having to make difficult business decisions that affect the people that work for you. That never gets easier.

RL: I think one of the downsides, certainly during these early stages of a business, is the persistent uncertainty and self-doubt. There was a while before we even had our first client.

There’s been a lot of questioning: is this a good idea? Are we just crazy? How long shall we give it before we quit? Then we got a really good first client, but as soon as that project was over we were back thinking: Are we going to get another client? Was that a flash in the pan? Is this really a good idea?

Thankfully, things have moved on a bit now, but I think about what Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager used to say – that he could only enjoy winning a title for a few hours, then he was back planning the next season.

Not that I’d compare us to him, but the feeling is similar. At the moment, there’s not a lot of laurels, and we certainly can’t rest on them.

 

How do you motivate yourself? And do you have any productivity hacks/apps?

 

AS: It’s an absolute no-brainer to motivate yourself when time is short for someone you love. I’m literally watching him lose abilities in front of my eyes and my youngest son is watching his older brother die. There is no greater motivation as a parent than the desire to protect and care. For me, I think, it’s just intensified, more so as each day passes without treatment.

MS: I motivate myself by my vision and for tasks by adding flow triggers. A hack would be that I adjust my task to my energy levels or my energy levels to the task ahead.

A flow trigger is a principle that you can apply to almost any scenario which enhances your chance to access flow states. There are numerous flow triggers, (e.g. music). A lot of people think flow happens when you are doing things that you love. But how you do things is, to me, more important because this can be applied to all situations and tasks. You can’t always do things that you love, but you can always do them in a way that enhances the chance for flow states and more rewarding activity. 

CB: I’ve made time to write out my life plan and it spans both the business and personal world which for me are intrinsically linked.

I review this every six months, minimum. Every morning before work I write out my life plan for the next 12 months so that I start my day with ‘why I’m doing what I do’ at the forefront of my mind. I find that this really focuses me.

I don’t run a to-do list, I run a VIT list, a Very Important Task list! These are the tasks that will help me deliver my life plan so I do these first!

I discovered the power of meditation during lockdown and properly relaxing and getting into a ‘sleep space’ before bed. I find that quality sleep is so important for clear thinking.

I try to make time to read every day to help broaden my thinking and learn from others. I love Jim Collins’ book ‘Good to Great’.

Lastly, working from home more, making time to get fresh air and exercise every day is critical, I love getting out on my bike.

RL: I’ve never had much problem motivating myself. My problem is that I spend too long on one thing, making sure it’s perfect, and so things take longer than they should. I’m trying to get better at completing tasks quickly, rather than becoming bogged down in the detail. 

What does success mean to you? How do you celebrate success?

 

AS: I always find this question hard because unless I can help stop Duchenne from taking this generation of Duchenne patients, Harrison included. I know I will feel like I’ve failed. I simply must help save them. Period.

That being said I have become ‘relatively’ disciplined at taking the time each month or two to look back and take a moment to appreciate the wins, big and small that have been achieved.

It’s a great motivator for the coming months just to recognise how far you’ve come and essential to be able to keep a true perspective.

MS: Success on a day-to-day basis? I measure it by the number of goosebumps I get, the number of times I get in the flow and the stories I get back from clients.

Long time success I measure by my ability to continue doing what I do and increasing my skills to do so. I celebrate success through being in flow, learning new things or experiences and skills and time spent with my children. 

CB: It’s simple really; if I deliver on my life plan which combines my business and personal purpose, that’s a success!

If we see evidence of how our work has helped the industry shift to a future space by making the food and drink we all consume better in some way or if the TFP foundation has contributed to impacting food, health and education for school kids then that’s a success too.

restaurant table set for a meal with plates and wine glasses

Celebrations are long overdue after lockdown.

I believe in celebrating humbly and sharing it with the people that have made success possible. It usually involves food and drink in some way!

RL: I think success, from a business point of view, would be getting to the position where the business supports us having the kind of lifestyle we want.

So that would be having a nice work/life balance, not slogging away evenings and weekends. It would mean continuing to work a lot from home and being able to spend a lot of time with the children, remaining a big part of their lives.

We’d also like to live in the countryside near our families in the north of England, so we’ve got a few fingers crossed that the preference for online training continues. 

Lastly, how would you like to be remembered by your business community? By your family?

AS: He NEVER gave up! I’m acutely aware that I might not save Harrison in time. I’m eternally positive and optimistic as a person and so even if I’m not successful I’d like to think that I helped give many people hope. It’s such a powerful feeling.

MS: In the business world, I hope to be remembered for raising the norm of what is perceived to be possible as we age – and how parents build resilience and readiness in our children.

For my family, I hope to be remembered as a person who supported them and was there for them on their way to doing their own things and activities to make them come alive, make the most out of life and set an example for the next generation. Finally, I’d like to set an example of living my life like this with no regrets and going for it.

CB: This really relates to our purpose – I would like the business community to remember me for making a positive impact on the food and drink industry, for being a champion of change.

Through our foundation, I would like to be remembered for having a positive contribution to the relationship that our future generations have with food and drink.

I hope that my family remember me as someone who inspired them to be the best that they can be, that made them laugh and as someone who wasn’t perfect but who loved wholeheartedly.

RL: I don’t care how I’m remembered by the business community if I’m honest. I’d like to think Rachel thinks she did alright with me, and that I’m a decent husband and dad (although I know I have my moments!).

I’d like to think the boys will remember me as kind, funny, an alright teacher, and also a pretty good friend.

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What a lovely thought to end on. Thank you, Alex, Menno, Charles and Rick for taking the time to chat with us and share your stories.

Here’s wishing a Happy Father’s Day to you and all the amazing dads out there.

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