“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time to Be Great Parents” with Dr. Ely Weinschneider & Laura Kozelouzek

Quality time for me means being 120% engaged and focused on my children and what they are doing. Children learn from our example and not giving them my attention when we are together is demonstrating that other things are more important. Laura Kozelouzek is a recognized expert and visionary of the serviced hospitality and co-working […]

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Quality time for me means being 120% engaged and focused on my children and what they are doing. Children learn from our example and not giving them my attention when we are together is demonstrating that other things are more important.

Laura Kozelouzek is a recognized expert and visionary of the serviced hospitality and co-working industry for over 30 years. She is an innovator, and entrepreneur and well respected for her ability to create “high energy” results oriented co-working cultures. In July 2010, Laura created Quest Workspaces, inspired by a need to provide business owners with a high end, high touch all-inclusive work space solution that offered true flexibility and business building opportunities. Quest Workspaces operates 12 locations, 10 in Florida, currently Miami’s 3rd largest coworking operator, and 2 in New York City representing over 3,000 clients and 360,000 SF. In 9 years, Quest has become a leading brand, featured in over 65 publications including; Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Fortune Magazine and New York Times, named one of Inc 5000’s Fastest Growing Private Companies in 2016 and 2018 and voted Best Place to Work every year since 2012. Prior to Quest Workspaces, in 2004 Laura founded Synergy Workplaces, growing the company to 25 national locations, and over 25 million in sales. In 2008, Synergy was sold to Carr Workplaces. Before Synergy, Laura spent 19 years in the commercial real estate and hospitality industries. During that time, as an executive at HQ/Regus, she was responsible for its most profitable region, representing 80 locations, 5,000 customers and generated $180 million in annual sales. While at HQ, she played a lead role in an industry “roll up” and consolidating the sector. As a serial entrepreneur Laura has owned a trendy NYC restaurant, launched a NYC real estate newspaper, brokerage business, and is a recipient of dozens of leadership, service and real estate awards. She graduated from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and is a member of the President’s Council of Cornell Women. One of her greatest accomplishment was the creation of Quest Cares in 2012. A program that supports local nonprofits with complimentary office space and services through Quest. To date the program has donate over $650,000 to over a dozen deserving charities. Laura plays a very active role in the workspaces community as board member of the Global Workspace Association, WANY, and All Good Workspace. She is also a frequent speaker at coworking, real estate and entrepreneurial conferences. When she’s not in the office she can found spending her time with her teenage son Jordan on the ski slopes, scuba diving, or water skiing or traveling. To say Laura is an adrenaline junkie and adventurer would be an understatement!

Thank you so much for joining us Laura! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

Igrew up in a middle-class suburban town. My parents were divorced, had been unable to attend college themselves, and struggled to make ends meet. Despite these challenges, they were good parents. They co-parented well together, they were there for me, and gave me the support and guidance I needed to pursue my dreams.

For me as a child, success meant financial freedom and being able to live the life I imagined. I was a driven “little bugger,” my mom used to say, and a “horse with blinders” — meaning that once I set my sights on something I was relentless until I got what I wanted. I loved leading and started my first business in middle school by “borrowing” a grocery cart, hiring any neighborhood kid that owned a large thermos, and started selling coffee to those waiting on the gas lines in the ’70s. At an early age I realized that work can be fun and that although we may not have all we want at the time, we could make choices and work hard to get those things we desire.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I left a very high-paying corporate job right before I became pregnant with my son. I thought I would be able to take time off to just be a mom but circumstances changed, and I found myself six-months pregnant and in need of work. These were hard times. I could have gone back to what I had done in the past but I wanted to create a future for myself that was more flexible and would allow me to better balance being a mom, earning an income, and being inspired by my work.

So instead in a sense I “started over.” I decided to start my own management company. I had to cobble together a deal that would allow me to earn enough income yet provide me the freedom I needed. So I went from running 500 coworking locations as the SVP of the largest global shared office company to the manager of one NYC location, where I also was the managing agent, earning a management fee and participation fee. And that was the beginning of my first Shared office company in 2003. From that simple, small beginning, I partnered with another larger Real Estate developer. As CEO and founder, I grew the company to 25 million in revenue and 20 national locations in 5 years.

What I learned in that process was how important it is to have a vision for your life, especially as a parent. I created a plan, and then a process to make it happen. I knew that for me I needed to build a career in which I could be there for my son, provide for both of us, and be inspired by my work.

I think that way too often working parents feel that they don’t have choices. because of the challenges of managing a career and being a good parent. But I learned that you can design the future you want!

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

When my son was younger it consisted of getting him back and forth to school in NYC. I had a well-tuned schedule in which I worked my meetings around being able to pick him up at 3 pm, head home, and then spend most of the afternoon with him. After I put him to bed, I picked my work back up till about midnight.

It didn’t allow for a lot of extra time. For about a decade, that is how I managed to be there for him while building my business. I sacrificed and gave up things I enjoyed, but I have no regrets because I gained so much more time with my son. I think that as an executive and parent, there are times you have to make sacrifices. And that’s ok — especially when it gives you more time with your family.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

I think now more than ever, kids need their parents. We live in a more complex world than when we grew up. I can’t imagine how a child can be well-equipped to navigate that complexity without having a loving support system that they can count on.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

I feel fortunate. Because of the time we’ve been able to spend together, I can’t imagine not wanting to hang out with my now 16-year-old son — and I’m even luckier that he still wants to spend time with me! Like any relationship, in order to be strong you need to share. It’s all too easy for children and parents to drift apart as the kids get older if you don’t work on it.

I found that when my son was younger it was easier to create and fortify a strong bond, but as they become teenagers there are so many distractions and challenges. I believe it’s the most critical time to spend time together and work on the relationship. As teenagers, they are constantly testing you. I try not to take things personally. I have to always remember that I’m older and tougher and that they constantly need to hear how much they are loved and supported. A sense of humor can go a long way, too!

My son went through a period when no matter what went wrong, I was to blame. He could be in a room alone, break something and he would shriek… “MOM!!!…. what did you do????!!!” I thought he was insane. Or he would spill something in the kitchen: “MOM… why did you ask me for the milk!!!???” (Seriously???)

So instead of getting upset, I said, “I know no matter what goes wrong in your life, it will ALWAYS be my fault. If you get fired from a job, a girl dumps you, you catch a cold, miss a plane, you name it I take FULL responsibility of everything that doesn’t turn out the way you want.” He looked at me and laughed, and that point forward he would catch himself and start smiling as he would be about to say, “MOOOOMMMM…”

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

Quality time for me means being 120% engaged and focused on my children and what they are doing. Children learn from our example and not giving them my attention when we are together is demonstrating that other things are more important.

If something comes up, such as a critical work call, I explain ahead to my son why I need to deal with it at that moment. We communicate and that way he knows what is happening.

I’ve learned that quality time with children is better spent when we are doing things that interest them. Of course that will change as they get older.

For instance, my son has always been passionate about trains. It started with Thomas the Train and building endless tracks around the entire house. This would go on for hours, creating and moving the dozens of trains from one room to the next while telling stories of where they are going and what they were doing.

That passion grew to Lionel trains and building a massive 8×10 foot double-decker train table for about 4 years!

I had no idea how to create a train layout, but together we researched and learned through trial and error. We would make regular trips to Home Depot buying materials and creating our masterpiece.

I think it is important to find things that you and your children both enjoy and share together.

For me, as a former ski instructor, I was intent on teaching my son to ski. So I did what any mother would do and took him skiing at four years old! Luckily we had a small mountain near our home and we were able to spend just an hour or so flopping around in the snow, grabbing some hot cocoa and French fries then heading home. By the time he was five, he and I were off to Steamboat Springs in Colorado and I was helping him down intermediate runs. It became our thing to do together. I never put him in ski school because I wanted the experience to be about the time we spent together. So that became our time. Now at a point in my life where I would probably ski less, he has kept my passion going and we still enjoy our mom and son ski trips.

As an entrepreneur, I worked a lot and there were many times when I was working from home. So my son has overheard me working from the time he was a baby. As a result, he developed a passion for business, which of course I’ve encouraged.

When he was seven, he decided to start a consignment shop in his playroom. He had no idea that that concept existed but came up with a model where he would have kids bring their toys, sell them to each other and he would take a percentage. I bought him a plastic cash register, stickers to create price tags and he rounded up the kids and their toys and was in business. He started by pulling them together for a “sales meeting” in the dining room and, after asking them if they wanted a cocktail, stood on a chair and told them they needed to sell more! (I wonder where he got that from…)

I share this because our interactions and support of one another is an example of quality time together and how we share. When he was young I included him on business trips whenever I could, seeing sites, touring our locations, listening to his ideas and thoughts about how to improve my company. I still include him in my business and he includes me in his projects. It is quality time that we share and have fun together. And I’m actually able to teach him amazing lessons, through examples and working together,

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

I think it comes down to how we manage our time and the priorities we keep. This applies to any job or role we play.

  1. Be organized: I’m sure to schedule any activity with my son into my calendar so that I can work around that first regarding work commitments.
  2. Try to unplug when you are with your children. Don’t let your phone or emails distract you from being 100% engaged.
  3. Don’t be afraid to set work boundaries. You need to control your time
  4. Be sure to either create or help build a work culture that values family. If you are in a situation where that is not the case, consider making a change to a company that shares your priorities.
  5. Eliminate the non-essential items in your day, make your children a priority, your time is precious and they grow up so quickly.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I don’t want to be just a “good” parent. I really strive to be an “outstanding” parent. It’s the most important job I’ve ever had. I guess being a good parent is protecting, and providing care for your kids until they are able to do it on their own. But for me being an outstanding parent is more about giving unconditional love and support and, in doing so, creating a really strong emotional foundation through which a child can grow and learn. From there, they can develop the confidence and positive attitude they’ll need to live a happy and purposeful life.

I see my role as a parent as one of a mentor, trainer and the person my son can come to for anything because I will always have his back. I do my best to give him what he needs when he needs it, whether it be some prodding; an ear to listen; a hug if he is down; a sounding board; coaching, inspiring, encouraging, holding him accountable when he needs to be, and helping him be his best self.

When I think about it, it’s like leading my team but on steroids, with a lifetime commitment that can sometimes be emotionally charged!

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I think the best way to inspire anyone is by doing and being the example, ideally through your big dream and by believing that they can achieve what they put their mind to. I try to do both with my son.

I think children start out believing that anything is possible and then society takes the steam out of their engine. I’ve tried to fuel my son’s engine from the time he was a young child. I remember when he was in first grade he did a really great job on an art project and he told me to call MOMA and tell them that it needed to be displayed because it was so amazing! Instead of telling him that was impossible, I directed his enthusiasm to something more “realistic” and he became the youngest artist to display his paintings at a SOHO art gallery. He was interviewed by an international television crew and actually explained his vision for his painting, like a seasoned pro, and sold his artwork.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Generally speaking, success for me is leading a life I’ve imagined. Everyone has a different idea of what that is and what success is. The life I’ve imagined is a happy and purposeful life.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I really don’t specifically read books on parenting. I apply all that I’ve learned in life and mentoring. I talk to other parents who know more than I do.

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