FATHER’S DAY: 10 founders & CEOs on the best advice from their dads

- August 31, 2019 5 MIN READ


Sunday, September 1 is Father’s Day, so break out the tongs, fire up the BBQ and hand dad a beer, give him a hug and say thanks.

To mark the occasion, we asked CEOs and founders for the best advice they received from their fathers.

Here’s what they said:

Michelle Gallaher

Michelle Gallaher

CEO of ShareRoot

Dad: Ken Gallaher

I’m the daughter of a feminist father who believes education delivers freedom, particularly for women.

The best advice Dad ever gave us was to plan to learn for life. I’m first generation Australian and the first in my family to go to university, and like many of my peers, our parents came from places where education was not as available.

Our house was and still is, filled with books, newspapers, magazines and my dad would open up big debates over the dinner table, encouraging my brother and I to exercise our opinions, but to be ready to change our minds as we would learn and new information came to light. Dad was never afraid to say “I don’t know”.

He was an explorer of new knowledge particularly in emerging technologies and inspired a comfort in me for working at the ’sandy edge’ with education as my safety net.

Ben Thompson

Ben Thompson

Co-founder and CEO of Employment Hero

Dad: Rob Thompson

My father is a true sceptic and lifelong learner. He always told me never to accept anything just because I’m told to and always think for myself.

He also said that you don’t have to do anything you are told to do, but you do have to accept the consequences of your actions.

Fred Schebesta with his daughters

Fred Schebesta

Co-founder of Finder

Dad: Alfred Schebesta

My father always taught me to be frugal both in business and in life, and I truly believe this is something that’s helped me get to where I am today.

When my business partner Frank Restuccia and I started Finder back in 2006, we were struggling entrepreneurs living off tinned spaghetti and looking to cut costs wherever we could to stay above water and take our business to the next level.

Being frugal became a philosophy, and it’s a mindset I hold close to my heart. It doesn’t mean compromising on quality or missing out on travel or the things you love in life, it just means being savvy and making smart financial decisions. And that’s what Finder is all about; helping people all around the world make better decisions.

Ken & Peter Kencevski

Ken Kencevski

CEO and founder at Devika

Dad: Peter Kencevski

My father’s motto is ‘Do what you love, and you will love what you do’.

Growing up I was inspired by seeing my dad take his passion for cars and transform it into a successful family business, building and selling high performance car parts. He turned his hobby into a top 100 retailer business.

When I was younger I aspired to be like him and work in the family business, but I realised I didn’t have the same level of passion for cars that my father did. While discovering that bothered me, it pushed me towards pursuing my own passion and my own business idea.

Following in his footsteps and his motto, I founded Devika and am now working in an industry I love, enabling people and organisations with technology in mind.

The late Eric Bernhardt, Florence Lavoix-Bernhardt and Nicholas Bernhardt.

Nicholas Bernhardt

CEO and co-founder of Informed 365

Dad: Eric Bernhardt

“I’m sure my late father wouldn’t mind if I call him a workaholic – his entire life revolved around work and he most certainly didn’t subscribe to the work life balance movement – to be honest I’m not sure he would have even understood the concept.

In his final years, and perhaps too late in life, he realised that there was more to life than just work. On our last visit with our then 6-month old daughter Florence in 2012 he handed us a letter that she was only to open and read when she was 16.

I confess that I read it and I was glad I did.

He had written a heartfelt letter that contained simple yet valuable advice: “Enjoy life to the full, express yourself, be kind to animals, learn to speak in public with confidence and if you’re not happy then change things.”

A few months later he passed away at the ripe old age of 100 years.

Thanks, Dad you were a good, honest and smart man.

Image: Three generations separated by 100 years. The late Eric Bernhardt, Florence Lavoix-Bernhardt and Nicholas Bernhardt.

Elias Tabchouri and his father, Frank.

Elias Tabchouri

Founder of Macquarie Lawyers

Dad: Frank Tabchouri

“Be brave and believe in yourself.”

Growing up my father always taught me to have a clear direction in life. He taught me to know what you want because if you don’t know what you want, then people won’t know what you want either.

If you have a clear path, it allows you to take clear steps every day towards it.

Another thing my father taught me was understanding that living your life is different to running a business. Too often, work consumes us, especially as a business owner. But, it is always important to remember that we should work to live, and not live to work.

Jost Steller & his son Dirk

Dirk Steller

Founder and MD of Seed Space

Dad: Jost Steller

My dad, Jost said: “Never forget the importance of hard work and one day you will thank me for these skills and experience.”

Growing up as part of a farming and business-oriented family, there was never a shortage of work to do.  Whether it was driving tractors, pruning trees, fixing fences or renovating houses I was expected to make a constant contribution to the family businesses.

I must have complained a lot because I remember often being told by my father, “One day you will thank me for these skills and experience”. At the time I thought it was a good joke.

However, looking back I very much value the work ethic, the technical skills, the ability to work in a diverse team and the camaraderie and satisfaction that comes with successfully completing a job together and I do thank him very much for helping me become who I am today.


Geoff Pocock

Exec director of Osteopore Ltd

Dad: Dr. Derek Pocock

My father never saw himself as a commercially astute man.  He was a doctor, who as a forensic pathologist spent his career working within the public service rather than private practice.

He was, however, a highly-regarded philatelist, and would always respond, when asked by myself or my brother often as to what his collection was worth, reply with: “It’s worth what someone else is prepared to pay for it”.

After the past 20 years in corporate finance and commercialisation, working with startups and other early stage tech companies, this phrase remains the most fundamental advice I have ever received on valuation.

It doesn’t matter what your projections and discounted cash flows say your value is. It doesn’t matter what another company was bought or sold for.

Value is, at its heart, always a discussion and negotiation between a buyer and a seller, a transaction between an investor and an investee.

You might think something is worth $100 a share, but unless someone else is prepared to transact at that value, that “valuation” has no relationship to reality.


Nir Gabay

Managing director of Elsight

Dad: Solomon Gabay

My father always taught me about the importance of fairness and integrity in your everyday interactions.

Among the many lessons that he taught me over the years was that the most important thing in business is to act with the utmost integrity in all dealings and interactions, and to understand that there are no shortcuts.

He used to tell us that the path to success is to therefore ‘walk the talk’, as a hard work ethic will take you far. That always inspired me and was a key lesson that I’ve tried to instil in my team.

From day one at Elsight, I have always looked to apply these lessons and see them as the cornerstone behind our company’s vision for success.


Yanir Yakutiel

CEO and founder of Lumi

I’ll never forget my father telling me this: he said to me that you always have to think about the long term and prioritise building strong relationships with people.

“Help anyone whenever you can. Because a) it’s the right thing to do and b) life is a whole lot easier when you have a lot of people who owe you favours.”

It’s this attitude which inspired me to think more strategically about things, especially in the long run. This piece of advice has served me well with my businesses, and I’m proud of how fast we’ve grown at Lumi.