SnapTravel CEO Hussein Fazal runs a hotel booking startup that lets users find and book rooms via SMS texts and Facebook Messenger. Through this endeavour, he’s found the double duty of raising a family and raising a startup have more in common than at first glance.
Fazal calls himself a serial entrepreneur. After his first startup, he had the energy, time, and desire to launch another, and, in 2016, SnapTravel was born. Being a repeat entrepreneur gave Fazal the unique advantage of knowing what to do and how to do it right. However, combining his role as an entrepreneur with first-time fatherhood uncovered new challenges and lessons.
Having two babies
“Being a father helps me to be a good founder,” said Fazal, noting that his role as a first-time father has forced him to be more efficient with his time in the office. Having less time means getting realistic about what needs to be done, as well as how things should be done.
“Being a father helps me to be a good founder.”
“It’s like having two babies,” Fazal said. Both jobs take up mental and physical energy. “Having a startup is very similar in terms of the time and the mind space that it takes up… and, in a weird way, the more that you invest in it, the more you get out.”
According to the CEO, the most important thing you can do when you’re both a full-time father and full-time founder is to find balance. That work-life balance, which seems increasingly harder to come by, has evolved for Fazal.
“Work-life balance means something else when you’re [in a relationship] and something even different when you have a kid,” he said. “Finding it is super important because work-life balance can mean something different on a given day. It’s an interesting equilibrium.”
Trust the team
Parenthood and being a CEO also both notoriously require quick decision making skills. Fazal’s entire day must be governed by good decision making – decisions about his startup, and decisions about his family life. He’s found the key to balance is becoming better at prioritizing his time and delegating more. To work smarter, Fazal offloads repetitive or minor tasks. Realizing he doesn’t have to complete everything himself frees up time to spend with his family.
“At work, we’re so close that, naturally, my kid has become a SnapTravel kid.”
“When you’re an early founder, it’s very easy to think that working more hours is the best way to move your company forward, and there are still situations that require hours and energy, but overall the equation ‘more time equals a better company’ isn’t always true,” said Fazal.
In order to be successful at what he does, Fazal realizes the importance of having a strong support system and building structures around himself. That support system comes in the form of his wife and the SnapTravel team, which takes on what he can not. He’s become more adaptive to change and aware of where his schedule can be tweaked. For example, Fazal now takes earlier flights back from business trips because it means extra time with family.
Ultimately, it’s his trust in the SnapTravel team that gives him the confidence to be a father and a founder. The company understands that his son is his priority. “At work, we’re so close that, naturally, my kid has become a SnapTravel kid,” said Fazal. Since his family has grown, so has his team, which has been part of helping him support his work-life balance. Fazal has directly hired about five new employees to help manage re-delegated responsibilities.
One of the ways Fazal builds trust at SnapTravel is by prioritizing transparency in the workplace. For example, his calendar is completely open for everyone in the company to see. So, when there’s something he needs to do with his son, he blocks it off in his calendar; that’s his time, and his team understands that, but the action also encourages others to be open and transparent within the company and helps them to understand that they can and should do the same.
Having that social environment was important for Fazal in order to foster a familial, community vibe. “Corporate culture often makes you feel like you’re two different people in and out of the company,” he said. SnapTravel encourages employees to be who they are and bring their full selves to work, whether that’s a father, or founder, or both.