Ryan Hinkle is a Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners, where he invests in growth-stage software companies, and works closely with executive management teams of portfolio companies on growth strategy, competitive positioning, and team development. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of nine companies. Ryan also leads the Analyst program at Insight with responsibility for recruiting, training, and mentoring new deal team members.
In this blog, Ryan discusses how his investment and board member roles have been impacted since becoming a father. Seeing situations through the eyes of his children has helped him learn important business lessons. Read on for some valuable insights.
Being a Father Makes me a Better Investor
Father's Day brings with it serious reflection on issues of parenthood, responsibility, and family. Unsurprisingly, as a private equity professional that is passionate about what I do, thoughts of work are pervasive regardless of whether I am at home or at the office. What better moment could there be to reflect on how parenthood has seeped into my professional world?
Being a parent has unquestionably changed the way I think, the way I work, and the way I think about work. But first, a disclaimer: as you read on, I want to be clear that in no way am I suggesting that working with companies is like working with children. I am, however, saying that exposure to my children has made me better at interacting with companies.
Here are a few of the lessons that are on my mind this Father's Day.
Parenthood is not easy, and it’s helped me develop a keener sense of empathy for others who must manage personal challenges. This is especially poignant when I recognize that most executive team members are parents themselves, and they’re likely worried about the same things I worry about as it relates to their children.
Acknowledging the importance of a family life outside of the office provides a foundation of shared experiences and perspectives. Most people are dealing with multiple challenges, both at work and at home. Understanding this as a business leader has reinforced my belief that in the world of software companies our most valuable assets are the people that work for our companies.
As a parent, and as someone who lost my father two years ago, I've learned to appreciate being in the moment. None of us can know how much time we have to impact the world around us, and we should, both in our business and personal lives, celebrate moments with those close to us.
In practice, this could mean that if a member of your team lands a large account, take the time to recognize that achievement. If someone reaches a milestone with your company, be sure to celebrate it. Appreciate all the small wins and joys. It is easy to focus only on the end goal; however, the big wins are usually the result of winning as a habit. There are winning moments happening every day in companies that are every bit as special as a baby’s first step. I try to recognize and appreciate them all.
Things Take Time
Raising children is a good reminder that things take time. It would be unrealistic to have a goal that my three-year-old will be an avid reader by this time next quarter. Learning and grasping complex concepts takes time, given that most concepts need the foundational elements as prerequisites.
This standard should apply in business as well. While we always want to set aggressive expectations for our portfolio companies and those we work with, we should also be sensitive to path-dependencies that impact timing. If you establish unrealistic goals for your business and your team, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Some things require germination to take hold fully—much like children must master crawling before they can master walking. There’s nothing like raising a child to help you realize that some things just won’t happen overnight.
Becoming a parent had the unexpected side benefit of observing my parents as grandparents—a role I look forward to someday.
In many ways being an investor is like being the grandparent of a company, while being the CEO or part of the management team is akin to the role of parent. As an investor/grandparent, you get to step in for a little while, make your observations, and “play,” only to return all responsibilities back to the parent at day’s end.
It is essential to recognize the difficult job the CEOs have with their companies. Like parenting, they have 24-by-7 responsibility for guiding and shaping the future of the business. This comes with the requisite worries, setbacks, and endless opportunities. Understanding how much I value affirmation by the grandparents resonates in my mind as I sit in boardrooms. I need to be careful not to criticize without all the information or understanding the constraints, and I need to be sure to applaud the efforts of the teams whenever appropriate.
Companies have personalities
My two children are very different: one is a raging extrovert, and the other is an extreme introvert. Being a parent to both has reinforced how hard-wired some tendencies can be. Understanding how people interact with one another plays a critical role in consensus-building. In business, this has translated into increased awareness of things like group dynamics, compatibility, and coaching. Each company has a personality and strategies that work well for one will not work for all. Appreciating the nuances of company differences is important to maintain an effective influence.
There are also lessons to be gleaned from watching children and the norms they form from interpersonal dynamics and interpersonal relationships, which can be a major thrust behind investing. The value of understanding people, who they are, and how they engage with one another, cannot be overstated.
Parenting is a long journey
I believe my reflections on fatherhood have made me more effective at work, and in my interactions with senior executives. One thing is certain; parenting has taught me a lot and I’m learning every day. Since my oldest is only five years old, I am still a long way from parenting an adolescent.
I suspect this means my learning journey is just beginning. I look forward to continuing this odyssey and refining my behaviors in the boardroom with my children as my teachers.
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers!