FATHER’S DAY: 27 founders & CEOs share the best advice their dads gave them

- September 6, 2020 17 MIN READ
Parent, baby
Photo: AdobeStock
Today is Father’s Day and for many families, a very different Sunday to previous years.

Whether you’re with your dad today or not (because right now, Covid-19 means you can’t be together), the important this is carrying him in your heart – and the values he taught you in the way you take on the world.

To mark the occasion and the influence dads have on who we are, we asked CEOs and founders for the best advice they received from their fathers.

Here’s what they said. Happy Father’s Day.

Murray Hurps

Director of Entrepreneurship, UTS

Geoff and Murray

Dad: Geoff Hurps

My dad is the reason I do what I do today.

My dad didn’t give me pocket money as a kid, instead he gave me large water tanks and told me to sell them on the side of the road.

It taught me a way of working where your results were only limited by your work, and it made entrepreneurship a normal and desirable thing for me to pursue.

Parents have an enormous influence on the kind of work their children choose. Australia needs more parents encouraging their children to pursue entrepreneurship, and particularly the kinds of entrepreneurship that are enabled by the technology we have in 2020.

Ant Millet

Partner, Antler VC

Simon and Ant

Dad: Simon Millet

Dad ingrained in my brothers and me the value of getting to know your customers and building strong relationships.

Striving to solve your customers’ needs on an enduring basis, whilst maintaining flexibility and evolving how the service is best delivered builds trust, loyalty, and an enduring relationship. He regularly reminded us that with no customers, one would have no business and to think beyond a single transaction.

I had the pleasure of running a successful business with my father, transitioning a fully offline business to fully online (and revenue 70x).

I was lucky to not only get principled advice but to learn his mastery alongside him in the field!


Maz Zaman

CEO and co-founder, TaxFox

Maz and Sarder

Dad: Sarder Zaman

Before migrating to Australia, my dad was the Chief Medical Officer at a large university campus in Rajshahi, Bangladesh, where I was born.

He would often say: “You must help anyone who is in need, even if they have done you wrong in the past. If you see unfairness, you have to speak up for those who don’t have a voice, and you must fight for those who don’t have the power to fight.”

I learnt some of my most important life lessons just by observing him.

When we lived in Bangladesh, he would visit his extended family at the village for one week out of every two months, not for a holiday, but to give free medical consults to anyone who lived in the area.

For six out of the seven days he would start seeing patients from the break of dawn until late in the evening. I have vivid memories of seeing long queues of villagers who couldn’t afford to see a doctor, but relied on my dad’s help. He would write the prescriptions and buy medicine for those who couldn’t afford it.

It’s his kindness and generosity that inspires me daily. My dad lived his life by example to help others and today I strive to live as he did.

Jose Yunis

Co-Founder, Green Ocean Group

Jose and Jose

Dad: Jose Yunis

I always saw my dad and thought he could do anything! I mean he started to work at the age of 14, he skipped a whole school year for good grades, and after working for someone else now he has his own business which was always his dream.

He didn´t really have to teach me much, he has been always a role model for me, but he always taught me to do everything by myself, to be respectful, take care of my family, but also to enjoy life whenever I could because life goes fast!

Thanks to his advice, I am confident, I have my own business, but mostly, I know I can also do anything, and I love it!


Carly Stebbing

Principal and Founder, Resolution123

Carly and Peter

Dad: Peter Fielding

On steering Resolution123 through an unprecedented challenge, Dad said “Along with enthusiasm, energy and innovation – a true business champion must also have the heart and steel of a warhorse”.

It meant the world to me for Dad to recognise the toll the pandemic has taken on business owners and what it takes to get through it.


Rojie Tadros

CEO & founder, Payday Deals

Jimmy and Rojie

Dad: Gamal “Jimmy” Tadros 

My father has taught me the importance of resilience in life.

He always tells me to never give up and to constantly work hard. Even if I’m not the most talented in the room, if I keep going and continue to turn up, that I am capable of anything and can achieve my goals.

As a keen handyman, he is always working on new projects around the house and doing odd jobs for others, including our local church. In this sense, he’s always learning new skills by doing things himself and improving what’s around him.

I truly believe this can-do attitude is what’s helped me get to where I am today.

Mike Pritchett

Founder and CEO, Shootsta

Mike and his daughter

Dad: Dave Pritchett

My Dad led by example, always up before the sun and following his dreams. He epitomises the thought that anything is possible and you shouldn’t settle for the status quo.

With his four sons as apprentices, he built a 35 foot yacht in the front yard and restored a full size steam engine in the living room – yes, you read that correctly.

He had many ‘one liners’ of advice for us boys, including “finish what you’ve started” and “No YeahButs” translated to no excuses.

My Dad passed away when I was 23 and we all try and honour his memory with bold choices every day, including how I raise my daughter.


Rebecca Schot-Guppy

CEO, FinTech Australia

Colin and Rebecca

Dad: Colin Schot

I’m a workaholic, and if anyone ever wonders where I get it from, it’s my Dad.

He worked incredibly hard when I was growing up to give both me and my family the lifestyle we have had and the opportunities to thrive.

One other thing he taught me is to cherish transparency. He was incredibly direct and honest with me growing up and that’s rubbed off on me too.

Fintech is a fast growing industry, and there’s a lot going on all the time. Despite this, I always make time to see my parents, usually more than once a fortnight.

I look forward to seeing them when I’m out of lockdown. Family is so important, and crucially very grounding. It helps you keep work in perspective.


Aaron Beashel

Founder, Simul Docs

Aaron and Colin

Dad: Colin Beashel

My old man had a distinguished sailing career. He was part of Australia II when they won the Americas Cup, he’s been to 6 Olympics, won a Bronze medal and was the flagbearer and captain of the 2004 Athens Olympics team, which I think is our most successful Olympics in terms of Gold Medals won by the team, number of medals won, etc. Even last year, at 60 years old, he won a World Championship event over in the US.

Whether it be the next Olympics or World Championships, he always had these goals and was working towards them, and he always encouraged me to do the same.

Both in my personal and professional life, I’m always setting goals. For Simul, we’re always setting goals we want to hit around revenue, number of customers, product features, etc even though we’re a bootstrapped company and don’t have a board of investors or anything forcing us to do that.

Similarly, in my personal life I’m always setting goals around finances, health & fitness, relationship, etc. My wife and I have 5 year goals that we’re working towards in each of those areas (financial, health, possessions, etc) and then at the start of each year we set 1 year goals that ladder up to the 5 year ones.

I think without this mindset, we wouldn’t be living as fortunate life as we are today.

William Deane

Founder & MD, Exto Partners

Russell and William

Dad:  Russell Deane

My parents were sheep and cattle producers in the Southern Tablelands of NSW.  Growing up, they always had a real ability to bring you back down to earth.   They ran the property as a business and used technology to deliver better returns long before it was widely accepted.

My father always let his actions speak louder than his words but three pieces of advice stayed with me.

These helped me when building our own businesses at Exto Partners and when guiding the founders we’ve backed.

  1. Step outside your comfort zone, you get no new insights staying where you are.
  2. There are no short cuts, work hard if you want results.
  3. Integrity is crucial, always do the right thing by others.

Tim Dickinson

Co-CEO, Assembly Payments

Iida & Tim Dickinson

Dad: Bill Dickinson

My Dad is one of those people who when I was younger, always had the answer, knew how everything worked and could build nearly anything: build a go kart, fix the house, fix the car, build a shed, fix the stereo.

As a kid that was amazing. Heck, as an adult it’s still amazing!

His formal training is in electronics, but his upbringing meant he had a firm grasp on all things mechanical too. He would teach us things like Ohm’s law, how an internal combustion engine worked, how valves in stereos worked, why capacitors would replace batteries in the future and how an LED worked.

Things that we didn’t learn about at school, but taught us who we were as a people and how amazing the efforts of humanity truly are.

I recall being about 10 years old and getting fed up with school, as I think all kids do. I wanted to ride bikes, build cubby houses, get muddy in the creek – kid stuff.

I said to my Dad: “when I finish school, I’m going to stop learning and go do more fun things that I want to do”.

What he told me, has stuck with me my whole life.

He said, “You never stop learning, life is one big learning experience. Just when you think you’ve learned everything, you go learn about something else. And that’s what life’s about.”.

Now I’m a father, and not only am I teaching my little one things, but now I get to teach my Dad about computers, the Internet and electric cars… and remind him that he was right about capacitors.

Thank you Dad. You were right: you never stop learning.

Chris Ridd

Technology investor

Chris and Ian

Dad: Ian Ridd

I can’t recall my dad ever sitting down with me and formally offering advice.

I think any tips or directives were delivered through his actions. One memorable example was when I was 13.

We had a timber shed converted to a cubby house where we lived in Balwyn, Melbourne. One Saturday, I think after watching The Great Escape the night before, I decided it would be great idea to surprise my 2 older brothers by cutting a trap door in the floor of the cubby where someone could hide beneath.

I embarked on the project only to find that 30 minutes in things were going seriously pear-shaped. Sheepishly I approached my father before my brothers would discover the unfolding disaster in our precious cubby.

My dad’s response? “Wow. Great initiative. I think we can fix it”.

So we spent the next hour or so turning it into the coolest trapdoor.

The lesson. Don’t be afraid to have a crack. And if you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

That message has certainly followed me through life and into business.

Dean Freestone

Co-founder and CEO, Seer

Robert and Dean

Dad: Robert Freestone

One of the best pieces of advice my Dad gave me is a motorbike reference. We both love motorbikes – riding them or watching the Grand Prix.

He told me “When you are going fast, don’t look at the trees. Focus on where you want to go.”

He always brings humour to things – even when they are pretty serious. It’s almost a funny idea that focusing on the trees could mean you crash into them. We are all living through this COVID crisis and there are so many trees we could be distracted by.

Back in March, I was packed up and ready to relocate to the United Kingdom as part of our expansion. That quickly disappeared as an option but we found other ways to achieve our goals.

I guess Dad’s advice is multi-layered. Don’t be distracted by the little setbacks and focus on your goals. And most importantly, enjoy the ride!

Alex & Chris Naoumidis

Co-Founders of Mindset Health

Alex and Chris with their father Arthur

Father: Arthur Naoumidis

Our dad has been a big factor in our startup lives.

Being an entrepreneur himself has meant he’s been able to give us many pieces of helpful advice over the years but what resonated most was his advice to be optimistic and ‘glass-half full’ sort of people.

This advice was drilled into us as we watched our dad work through challenges and overcome many obstacles, always with a smile and an explanation on how he would figure it out.

As we go through our startup journey, this positive outlook has helped us build resilience and the knowledge we can get through anything.


Michael & David Sojevic

Co-founders, DebtForce

Peter with his sons Michael and David

Dad: Peter Sojevic

Dad has always worked seven days a week, five of which were spent running a small business in North Fitzroy, with weekends dedicated to restoring old cars, doing renovations on houses, or just helping people out.

When we were growing up, he always told us kids to ‘work smart, not hard’, and to be clever with our money. That’s what drew us both to building DebtForce, a platform that allows business owners who are owed money to work smarter with their time, while helping them understand the importance of good cashflow.

Dad has done so many jobs for people over the years without charging them or accepting lesser payments because he understands that sometimes, people aren’t always in a position to pay, but he still wants to help them out.

One of our primary pillars at DebtForce builds from this; to always work with people – whatever their circumstances – to make sure both sides get a fair go.


Charbel Zeaiter

Founder, The Alt Saints

The Zeaiter family

Dad: George Zeaiter

Dad migrated to Australia in 1959 and in 1963, he returned to his homeland of Lebanon in 1963 and then settled in Australia with my Mum, Rose.

The 1960s saw an influx of European and Lebanese migrants all in search of a better life and a real shot at financial freedom. Working 3 jobs, his story was one of hard work and a genuine love for his faith and his community.

Dad was adamant that no matter what, your health and happiness are the only things that matter in life, without them, there’s no way we can add value to the world. Literally taking his statement “as long as you’re healthy and happy” as my compass in life, I took (or manipulated that for my own agenda) as my cue to embark on journeys in personal and professional expansion.

He’s an awesome human being who I’m proud to call my Dad.


Uzair Moosa

CEO, Hey You

Uzair and Haroon

Dad: Haroon Moosa

The best advice my dad gave me which I feel is very relevant in today’s world is the following:

“Your job is to work as hard as you can, and give it your best shot with 100% commitment.  Don’t focus only on results! In the long term your persistence and hard work will drive results. Focusing completely on the results will make it harder for you to go through the ups and downs of life”

As I think about this advice in today’s completely changed world, this advice resonated really well with me. COVID-19 has once again proved that at times external factors play such a critical role in the success or failure of a business. And while, you might not be able to control the external factors, you can always control how hard you work, and how much effort you put in your work to show 100% commitment to your colleagues, your investors and your customers.

A lot of businesses are facing unfortunate setbacks due to no fault of their own but businesses who adapt to the circumstances and new reality, continue to work hard and continue to think about creative ways to show 100% commitment to serve their customers are the ones who will come back stronger.


Mark Calabro

Co-founder, HungryHungry

Mark and Saverio

Dad: Saverio Calabro

Although my father was not a business owner himself there were many life lessons I carried on from him which have had an impactful influence in my life as a business founder.

Integrity, honesty and support no matter are key values my father taught at an early age, and now as a father of two young boys, these are values that I hold sacred and that I am determined to pass on.

My father would often say to my mother, “It’s now our turn to pass on the baton, love, we’ve done our job” – for me that translates to they did their their best in raising my sister and I as good human beings and it was now my job to do the same with my children. The circle of life continues.

The start of Covid was one of the most challenging times of my life.

My business HungryHungry quickly pivoted from Table Ordering Technology, to helping restaurants be online for takeaway and delivery. We were not prepared for the high demand and as a consequence technical issues and server blackouts followed at peak ordering times on Friday nights and weekends. Our customers were concerned and we were inundated (rightly so) with messages of frustration and sometimes, hard words. I had two options at this point: hide or face the music. My head was in a constant swirl as I tried to decide on what the next best move was.

My inner voice, the one I had learned from my father, then took over and said, “Mark, own it”.

As time goes on, I find myself looking back to my childhood more often, putting reason behind words I heard growing up as a child. Are all of them constructive and useful for me right now in my life? No, and they never will be. We are all on our own journey in life, however with unconditional love and support of my father to back me in every time, no matter what, I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.


John de la Motte

CEO, Compass

Paul and John

Dad: Paul de la Motte 

I have such wonderful memories with my parents and they remain my amongst my closest friends.

My dad has always been someone who will give anything a go and I have certainly adopted this philosophy from him. From being a senior manager in the public service to his knowledge of horticulture – he has always impressed me with his dedication and give-it-a-go attitude.

From us building tree houses together, to working on cars, renovations or gardening projects, he has provided me with such a good world experience and a desire to understand how everything works.

From a business perspective, he is always there and willing to help with anything, from office designs to assistance when our building has a leak and we need to arrange an emergency repair.

Love you heaps, Dad. Happy Father’s Day to all!


Martin McKay

CEO and founder, Texthelp

Willie and Martin

Dad: Willie McKay 

Work hard, play hard: The best thing my dad did for me was to instil a hard work ethic.

I was brought up on a farm and was used to getting up early to feed the livestock before school, and then go to school, and come home and feed the animals again.

My dad was never too far from the farm, even on family vacations we would stay nearby so he could go home and check on the cows that were going to calve and other activity. It was normal for me to spend two or three weeks of the year not going to bed at night because it was lambing season but I don’t think it was unusual for kids my age growing up on farms, it just got me used to putting work in.

Having said that, I think my dad did party pretty hard back in his day, which I seem to have inherited.

My paternal grandmother used to say “All things in moderation, including moderation”.


Steve Lapin

Chief Financial Officer, Zebit

David and Steve

Dad: David Lapin

I am thankful to my Dad for so much guidance and wisdom over the years.  Of all the advice I’ve received from him, there are really two things that stand out above the rest.

The first is that there is no substitution for hard work and grit.  He would always say how most people move on to something easier when faced with a true challenge.  That success in business was not always about who was smarter or who had a better education, but was more about who was willing and able to tackle the challenges and not give up.  It was a war of attrition.

The second and most important was about the strength of your family and familial support.  One of the things that I credit with having the biggest impact on me was the fact that no matter what my Dad had going on in business or life, he always made a point to have dinner as a family every night.

Those evenings built lasting trust and friendship as we discussed each of our days.  It is a big reason why I make it a point to have dinner each night with my wife and two sons and my hope is that I’m able to do half as good of a job as my Dad.  Thank you, Dad.


Jarrod Hilaire

Founder and CEO, Exosol

Eddie and Jarrod

Dad: Eddie Hilaire

The best advice given to me by my Dad has always been simple – “if you’re trying your best, then it is impossible to fail”.

Even though this may seem generic to some, this testimony ran deep with me throughout my life as it acts as a double-ended statement. If you try your best at something and you succeed, then you are rewarded with the tropes and goodwill associated with the corresponding success. If you try your best at something and fail however, then you have won the knowledge of how to get better at that something – how to get a step closer to that success.

The most profound thing about this advice in my eyes is the way that it can be so vastly manipulated. It can be applied to school, university, work, sports, love and business. If your team is losing at football, band together and try your best – if you succeed, then you win; if you fail, then you know how to beat them next time.

In a similar manner, if your business is gathering reach but not making sales, adapt your marketing strategy and try your best – if you succeed, then you win; if you fail, then you know what marketing strategy doesn’t work.


James Prevedoros

COO, Dogg 

Hiralous with James

Dad: Harilous Prevedoros

My dad always taught me to chase the things in life I wanted, in both work and leisure.

He always highlighted to me the importance of staying hungry for opportunity in comparison to being content with where you are. I aspired to have the same mindset as him and build a foundation upon things I am passionate about by which to build a business.

The value of spending money where I spend time in leisure has been a fantastic piece of advice that made me feel like I could prioritise everything I was passionate about. It allowed me to seperate my leisure time from my work time and in turn, enjoy my work more.

I wouldn’t be the man I am today without your guidance and support. Thank you dad.


Mina Nada

CEO and co-founder, Zoomo

Wagdy and Mina

Dad: Wagdy Nada

The best ‘advice’ my dad has given me has simply been his example. My dad has always been incredibly hard working.

As an obstetrician, he still wakes up in the middle of the night several nights a month to go and deliver babies.

He’s unafraid to take risks – he moved to Australia 35 years ago when everyone was advising him against it with no immediate family or friends here, with just the support of my mum, because he believed it would lead to a better life.

And he has lived by his values even when it was to his detriment; refusing exciting job opportunities which would have been jarring for our family so we could have a stable environment. Having his example to look at has made making a lot of life decisions easier.


Kirstin Hunter

Co-Founder and MD, Future Super

Dad: Andrew Hunter

My father is a swimming coach in Northern NSW and, in addition to teaching myself and my siblings, he taught most of the kids in the local region to swim, taking several through to state and national medals in the pool, surf, and rescue events.

Coaching is all about mantras, and one of my Dad’s mantras was that talent is extremely common, but dedicated talent is extremely rare. (As I type this, I have a vivid image of my Dad pacing the end of the pool and repeating this mantra over and over again to his teenage charges).

This mantra is no less true when it comes to growing a business as it is in the pool. Anyone can have an idea, but those who succeed are those who take that idea and really put it to work, investing the energy to learn and improve, and transforming that original idea into something world-beating. The dedication to learn and improve can be the difference between those ideas that work and those that don’t.

Alex Coates

Managing Director, Datacom Australia

Alex and Sam

Dad: Chunky (Sam) Coates

Dad lives in the UK and is a farmer so about as far removed from IT in Australia as you can get.

His advice is always pretty salient without a very (any) good understanding of what it is I do:

  • treat your people like fields of wheat – the most precious crop you have
  • make hay when the sun shines – pounce on opportunities as they present themselves
  • treat your neighbours as you would want to be treated yourself
  • always have fun doing what you are doing
  • if things go wrong – it isn’t the end of the world – you pick pick yourself up and keep going
  • if it all goes wrong – you come back to the UK and farm with me!

Julien Marchand

Startup Coach 

Dads: Daniel (biological) and Daniel (stepdad)

I received 2 pieces of advice from my dads that make the founder I am now

Prioritise your family: That’s the advice I received from both my biological dad but it didn’t come in so many words. Daddy Dan showed me what happens when you don’t: you end up not forming a strong bond with your kids.

‘Prioritise’ means sharing your most precious resource with your family: your TIME.  Daddy Dan did a lot: take us to McDonald’s, to the movies, paid allowances and participated in the cost of my studies… but what was missing was being present mentally in those moments. Now I love dropping off my kids to school, I gave up full-time work and built a business that allows me to prioritise my family, being more present with my kids…

Align what you do with you and your family: My stepfather was an ex-navy guy, turned business developer who fell in love with DIY Home renovation after a back injury. He loved it because it was a nice hobby but also because he could home more often,  provide us with a nicer home and provide for later with such an investment.

Aligning your business to your family and yourself means that you will always enjoy what you do, you will get clarity and focus and you will never lose your motivation. So what do you like? Where is your happy place?

Now I am passionate about entrepreneurial education at University, at home and I made it my own business. At home I am raising my kids as entrepreneurs (if you come to Manly on the weekend you will probably see my musical entrepreneur son busking!). Now I help other dads launch their startups in harmony with their family.

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