Parenting And Startup Life Are Basically The Same Thing. Here's Why
Arrif Ziaudeen is founder of restaurant reservation platform Chope and the father of two "mini me" daughters. He explains how frequently the two worlds collide
When Arrif Ziaudeen founded Chope in 2011, the booking app had 12 restaurant partners. Today, Ziaudeen and his team have grown the platform to list 5,000 restaurants across five markets in the region, 3,000 of which are in the company's native Singapore.
When the country initiated its compulsory "Circuit Breaker" lockdown, Ziaudeen pivoted quickly, launching Chope On Delivery in April, moving from idea to execution within 72 hours.
“A factor differentiating us [from other food delivery services] is that we’re trying to bring the dining experience to people at home, but also making it more affordable for restaurants to use us,” says Ziaudeen. “With other delivery platforms, restaurants typically have to share 30 percent of their earnings from each customer order, which isn’t ideal in a time when everyone is struggling to survive.”
Chope On Delivery now serves 200 local restaurants—30 percent of which were not originally on the Chope reservation platform. Whether the service will still be available post-pandemic, Ziaudeen says, “We’ll continue to do it as long as our restaurants and diners want it.”
Since becoming a founder, Ziaudeen also became a father. His two daughters, who are currently five and two years old, are his “mini-mes”, he says. And while parenthood is a whole different ball game in many ways, there are plenty of places where his two worlds intersect. Here, he tells us how.
You Love Them More Than Life Itself
For Ziaudeen, an obvious similarity between being a founder and father is that “whether it’s my users or staff or children, they will never know just how much I love and cherish them”. On the professional front, he shares that the gratefulness he feels for his users—old and new—is neither quantifiable nor something he can describe.
He says this is comparable to the affection he has for his children. “When I became a parent, I realised that I just have a huge amount of love for my kids to the point where I don’t need them to recognise or acknowledge my love for them. It crosses the threshold where even if they think I don’t love them because I discipline them, it doesn’t matter because I love them so much.”
They Do As You Do, Not As You Say
As in a family, the culture of a startup is created by its leader or leaders. “I’ve noticed that for employees as with kids, they do as I do and not as I say,” says Ziaudeen. “So you may say that your company culture is XYZ, but it’s really going to be what you actually practise as the founder.”
He cites timeliness as an example. “At Chope, our official working hours are 10am to 7pm. But the truth is, I’m not the most punctual person. And this will cascade down to the rest of the company—and I have to be okay with that.”
In the context of the family, he says it’s similar to bedtime for his children. “When I tell my kids that it’s bedtime, my five-year-old sometimes tells me, ‘Why don’t you go to bed too?’ And when I say it’s because I’m an adult, she replies, ‘So what? You need to sleep too!’”
Ultimately, he says, like parents, startup founders are creating versions of themselves at the workplace through the culture they put in place. “They observe how you do things and eventually, practise a version of what they’ve learned from watching you.”
You Realise Nobody's Perfect
One of the biggest lessons Ziaudeen says he’s learned from being both a founder and father is understanding and accepting that no one is perfect. “Majority of the problems we’ve faced as a startup can be traced back to people. But because we’re human, we have to learn to accept that mistakes will inevitably be made. It’s more important to know when to let go.”
Similarly in parenting, Ziaudeen says accepting that his daughters will make mistakes along the way and not always obey the rules that he and his wife have set for them is part of the process. “We have a no-TV rule for our children, but of course we sometimes catch them watching the TV when we come back home from work. Sometimes, I scold them for not listening. But there are also times when I tell myself, it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with letting them watch some TV this time.”
There's No Cookie-Cutter Approach
As with raising children, there's no one method for leading a team. In the workplace, a leader will encounter many different personalities, which means you will need to understand the people you are managing and personalise your approach accordingly, says Ziaudeen.
“My daughters, for example, have different sleeping habits—the older is a late sleeper and late riser, while the younger is the opposite. So my wife and I have developed a different way to bond with them individually."
Similarly, at the Chope office, Ziaudeen says, "Some of our employees are more collaborative and gain confidence from being surrounded by others. And then there are others who are more data-driven and independent workers. So my approach changes depending on who I’m interacting with, and this requires me to know my employees and their individual working styles well.”
You Need To Be A Jack-Of-All-Trades
Being a startup founder often means that the onus is on you to have a strong grasp of everything that is going on in the workplace. His children see him the same way, says Ziaudeen.
"In both realms, there's an expectation for you to be the ultimate problem-solver," he says. "With my daughters, for instance, if they have a splinter or their toy isn't working, they'll come to me for help or answers. This is similar to when you're in a startup, especially when it's the early days. As the founder, you are expected to know and be able to teach your staff things like calculating the CPF contributions—Singapore's mandatory social security savings scheme—for your employees or structuring a term sheet for an investment round."
Ultimately, the many similarities are because both founders and parents share the same goal. "Your aim is to provide guidance and nurture the strengths of your staff and children, to help them to become good employees and good human beings.”