The founding fathers: how dads are championing flexible working

Increasingly, dads – just like mums – are looking to gain more control of their business and social lives by embracing flexible working. talks to dads who have founded their own start-up companies to get more flex.

Flexible Working


“Flexible working means entrusting and empowering staff to deliver what you pay them to do,” explains Steve Dimmick, founder and chief commercial officer at Doopoll.

Increasingly, organisations – whether large enterprises or smaller businesses – are offering this in order to attract and retain employees.

According to a recent One Login survey, 69% of professionals say workplace flexibility is a critical issue when evaluating potential employers.

Those individuals who can’t get the flexibility they want are increasingly opting to create their own companies in order to get more control over how they work and are harnessing technology to do so.

At their core is often a belief of the business and social benefits of flexible working, something that is translated into their organisations’ structure.

“Last year, I decided to leave my full-time job and work myself, and the main goal was to spend more time with my daughter,” says Dan Sheridan, director of Sheri Media and founder of Player Network.

Whatever the reason, the benefits are evident. Flexible founders say a less rigid structure to their business allows people to have personal lives and parents to be more involved with their children’s upbringing – something that can be truly transformative. And they add that it does not hinder productivity. In fact, they say, it means they are able to offer a great level of service to clients.

Flexible structures

Many founding fathers are keen to talk about the benefits of the flexible structures that define their business. Anthony Burr, founder of PR companies Burr Media and StoryGen, says he has done fixed office-based contracts in the past, but found the inflexibility of office-based work hampered his ability to be more entrepreneurial and led to him wasting time on commuting.  When he changed his approach he says he was suddenly inundated with new business opportunities. He states: “I put this down to being able to work around my diary, instead of having three days a week always blocked off.”

For StoryGen, a PR company focused on nascent technology, Burr teamed up with Dr Michael Samy, a former ENT doctor. Samy loves the flexibility of the business. He says: “I’m a naturally creative type, and so my energy comes at unpredictable times. Some days I’ll experience writers’ block, and other days that stroke of inspiration will come at 11pm and I’ll work through the night. These are the personalities we’d prefer to attract to join the StoryGen mission to promote genuinely promising technology.”

Sheridan does not employ anyone, but uses freelances – who are also dads – to flex according to the business needs. He says it is important to be open about the flexible way he works. He explains to clients upfront how he approaches work, the services he offers, where he work sand that occasionally there may be the odd interruption. “Eight out of 10 times this approach works flawlessly,” he says. “In the times it doesn’t work you have to juggle tasks or bring in freelances.”

“It’s the most amazing feeling to know that I can leverage other flexible workers through the gig economy and have a day out each week with my daughter,” he says.

Flexible experimentation

At Doopoll flexibility is woven into the structure of the business. The poll generation company and 2016 winner of The Sir Michael Moritz Tech Start-Up of the Year award has an ‘all-hands’ video conference every Monday morning. “Beyond that, everyone is free to schedule their working week as they see fit,” says Dimmick.

Last October, Doopoll decided to end their office lease and since then “staff have worked from wherever they are happiest and most able to do their work,” says Dimmick.

To ensure productivity is not compromised, many of the Doopool team use a combination of Calendly and Zoom to schedule and run video-meetings. “Face to faces tend to happen at client’s offices or in coffee shops,” explains Dimmick.

He adds that he has a relaxed approach to building the business. “We are not chasing that quick exit,” he says. That enables the company to take their foot off the accelerator every now and again, providing the option to scale down workloads if its flexible working culture is being challenged.

Rich Leigh is founder and CEO of Radioactive PR which has become well known in the industry for creating a four-day week. He says the decision to move to a four-day week was “definitely born of being a dad, as it makes you think
differently, doesn’t it?”

He adds: “We’ve had a lot of attention around having done this. It maybe hasn’t helped us grow any more, but it’s brought a massive influx of phenomenal CVs, both men and women.

“We’ve become a beacon. So many people are keen to work flexibly.”


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