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Ketan Dattani: “Internal controls”

Spending quality time with children is essential for their healthy growth and development. Moreover, not spending enough time with your children can lead to frail family bonds. Children need role models. As parents, we are the first models they can learn from and aspire to be and they learn their values, work ethic, and habits […]

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Spending quality time with children is essential for their healthy growth and development. Moreover, not spending enough time with your children can lead to frail family bonds. Children need role models. As parents, we are the first models they can learn from and aspire to be and they learn their values, work ethic, and habits from us.


As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Ketan Dattani.

Ketan is the Founding Owner and CEO of Buckingham Futures, a specialist award-winning Environmental Recruitment Business that provides bespoke permanent and temporary recruitment and consultancy solutions to public and private sector employers.

He is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur. He holds over 20 years of recruitment experience and has a high profile within the sector. He is widely documented as an expert on Employment Law, Employee rights and for providing Careers Advice.

Academically Ketan is a graduate of Environmental Biology and a post-graduate of Environmental Planning and Management.

He also holds a Certificate in Employment Law and The Certificate in Recruitment Practice which is a nationally recognised recruitment qualification developed jointly by the REC and key employers.

Outside of business, Ketan volunteers with several schools, colleges and universities providing careers guidance, CV & interview technique workshops, and conducting mock interviews with those looking to embark on a career within the environmental sector.

He also offers work experience programs and opportunities at Buckingham Futures for students, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and adults with learning difficulties to help achieve their potential by giving them an insight into the world of work.

Ketan is happily married to his beautiful wife Helen and a father to 4 amazing children -boys aged 12 and 8 and a boy and a girl (twins) aged 2. He thoroughly enjoys being hands-on in parenting and family life.


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

I was born in Leicester in the early 1970s after my parents were forcefully expelled from their birthplace of Uganda by a military dictatorship.

My early memories are of growing up in a small house with lots of uncles and aunts and tons of cousins. With the loss of much of Leicester’s industry during the mid1970s my parents had to move to London to seek employment.

In London, our economic situation wasn’t the best. We lived in a rented room until the birth of my sister. It was then that we were allocated a flat in a council estate.

Sadly, there were few prospects in my estate. There was, however, exacerbated social inequality and masked deprivation issues as well as drinking and drugs associated anti‐social behaviour including racially aggravated violence.

As a child, seeing my parents daily struggle as Ugandan refugees have contributed to my development and where I am today.

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

From a young age, I established an avid interest in Environmental matters. My interest was sparked when I spent a summer holiday with my grandparents in Coventry.

Even though I was only four years old I remember so vividly the fresh air, clean playgrounds, birds singing and open green spaces.

It seemed a world away from my environs of passed-out vagrants, lifts smelling of urine (if they were working), smashed street lights, graffiti, broken bottles, burnt-out cars and boarded up windows.

Having failed miserably in the school system it was my avid interest in the Environmental sector that led me back to into the academic arena and to my choices of undertaking an undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology and a post-graduate degree in Environmental Planning and Management.

After completing my Master’s degree, I, unfortunately, struggled to find employment within the Environmental sector and so began my career in recruitment.

I recognised a gap in employment opportunities for Environmental professionals and set up Buckingham Futures, a specialist Consultancy supplying Environmental personnel across the Private and Public sectors on a nationwide basis.

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

My day starts the night before when I evaluate my calendar for the following day. I try to schedule my day strategically to establish priorities, limit procrastination, keep track of goals, and help enhance my well-being. My morning alarm is set for 5:00 am but my natural body clock wakes me at around 4:40 am.

Once awake my first focus is on deep breathing exercises and positive affirmations to centre myself and align my goals for the day.

I make it a routine to drink a glass of water with turmeric get me thinking clearly and kick-start my metabolism as well as ward off any potential infections.

I then do a power walk with my dog, followed by my morning workout to get my heart rate up before helping to get the children ready.

We then have breakfast as a family before our school and working days commence. Having breakfast together daily is a routine that underpins Dattani family life.

After the school run, I check my emails before heading off to my office so that there aren’t any unexpected surprises in my inbox and that I am starting my working day off in proactive mode instead of reactive.

Once in the office, I am in meetings for most of the day, from immediate focus matters to long-term preparation. No two days are alike which keeps things exciting!

My evenings are typically spent helping with homework, bath times, dog walking and reading.

My weekends are mostly filled with visiting the temple, visiting my parents, children’s activities, sports tournaments or birthday parties.

Thanks to my routine, I have more drive, motivation, and passion, which makes achieving my goals more fulfilling. I have more physical and mental energy to make it through my days and I feel happier and more satisfied with the quality and depth of my life.

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?

Spending quality time with children is essential for their healthy growth and development. Moreover, not spending enough time with your children can lead to frail family bonds.

Children need role models. As parents, we are the first models they can learn from and aspire to be and they learn their values, work ethic, and habits from us.

There is a parallel between parental involvement and a child’s self-esteem and “internal controls,” which points to a child’s ability to regulate their emotions. Involved parents equate to happier children!

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?

Investing time in myself and my family is a choice I make daily. I recognise how quickly children grow up and I never want to be in a situation where I look back with regret.

Instead of luxurious gifts, one of the best ways of showing your love to your children is to spend time with them.

Spending quality time your children are about sharing experiences and creating memories. It gives them a sense of belonging.

I have gained so much from purposefully carving out consistent pockets of time, both collectively and individually to partake in age-related activities with my children, where the relationship is advanced meaningfully.

As children develop, that positive reinforcement, combined with the right framework for growth, is critical to define their character and strong child-parent bonds are only formed through constant communication and meaningful time spent together.

Making meaningful connections with your children is so important. Doing as such will have lasting impacts on them as they grow into contributing adults in the future.

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 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

When I was an employee one of the aspects of my life that took the biggest hit was my family. I worked long hours and constantly checked email when at home. It was easy for family time to get sacrificed.

It was the desire to be around to help raise my children drove me to reassess my options.

Running a business on my terms has allowed me to nurture family relationships and enjoy each other’s company with fun activities and games such as:

Movie nights — it is the perfect opportunity to bond with all members of the family — and the children cherish curling up with us and each other on the couch and sharing in the experience playing out on the screen. It’s the stuff childhood memories are made of.

Board games — Friday nights in the Dattani household are for board games. It is the perfect way to teach the children about teamwork, patience, and how to win and lose gracefully.

Reading together — in the evenings I and my wife read to the twins. Once they’re asleep me and the older children read a book of our choice. Cuddling up with a storybook at bedtime provides routine and stability, essential for children as they learn best through gentle repetition.

Spotting wildlife — this is a favourite with the older children. Since moving to Stanmore in 2016, we’ve spotted grey squirrels, wood pigeons, rabbits, magpies, crows, gulls, hedgehogs, muntjac deer, foxes, green woodpeckers, pied wagtails, red kites, grass snakes, ringneck parakeets, mute swans, robins, Canada geese, Pipistrelle Bats, great tits, wrens, finches, herons, toads an egret and many other species of birds and insects that we haven’t yet been able to identify. All within 5 minutes’ walk of our house!

Housework — it is the perfect way to teach the older children to learn what it takes to run a household. We’ve devised a rota where they each have specific jobs they need to do, like putting away the dishes, hoovering or helping hang up clothes.

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 to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

All parents will have different strategies to create more space in their lives in order to give their children more quality attention, below are some of the things we do:

  1. No gadgets — our ‘household law’ is to put down the gadgets when it’s family time. Anyone caught using a gadget during family time will be met with family contempt. Without the distractions of gadgets, the children feel like they are being heard and it makes them feel important. You can always scroll through Instagram after they are asleep.
  2. Share daily experiences — the more the children know about my day, the more they’ll be engaged to share their day. Also, it helps them understand why my business obligations can sometimes be demanding. They feel part of my success and I feel part of theirs. Raising children that see their parents happy and successful is a great role model and key for pushing them for giving their best to every project they’ll face.
  3. Honesty is the best policy — children see and feel everything! If I’m concerned about something, I let my children know. I apologise when I make a mistake and I am not afraid to admit that I have faults. This helps them understand that it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s often easier to just “own up” than to lie or make excuses.
  4. Be mindful that childhood is a short chapter — knowing what I know, the children will have a lot of years to ‘adult’. I want them to continue to experience and appreciate an innocent life like a child for as long as possible.
  5. Rely on your team — it helps to have a great team around you. A business is nothing without the people who work behind the scenes. While I may have dreams, it is ultimately my team, with whose help achieve my goals of spending more time with my family.

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

Parenting is a complex endeavour, and there’s no one formula for doing it right. Children learn through observation and often mimic the behaviour of their parents.

As a parent, I try to emulate what I’ve learnt from my mother. She has instilled in both my sister and me a hard work ethic, and a moral compass always pointing in the direction of compassion. Even now I rely on her judgement and approval to keep me grounded and maintain my self-esteem.

Good parenting helps foster empathy, honesty, self-reliance, self-control, kindness, cooperation, intellectual curiosity, motivation, and desire to achieve.

The way I parent each of my children is different and age-specific. I believe that building a good relationship and understanding your children’s distinct needs is key. Like all good relationships, being a good listener and communicator, supporting and loving them unconditionally and establishing values and guidelines is all critical.

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

There are many ways parents can inspire children to show them what life can be at its best and what they can aspire to become at their best. Whether it is school, sports, or hobbies, as parents we should motivate them to be the best that they can be.

Here are some of the ways me and my wife motivate our children.

1. Set goals — regular goal setting is important for everyone, including children. We try to make it fun so that it can become a habit for life.

2. Celebrate accomplishments — celebrating our children’s success is an incredible way to nourish and encourage their progress and growth. By praising everyday successes, no matter how big or small, we unlock one of the most powerful tools to support and connect with our children in their continued development.

3. Encourage them — when encouragement is focused on effort, children are more likely to see trying hard like a good thing in itself. They’re also more likely to keep trying and to be optimistic when they face challenges.

4. Take an interest — parents are their child’s first teachers and should remain their best teachers throughout life. By taking an interest in their interests encourages development.

5. Discover their passion — encourage your children to discover what they are passionate about. It may take a few attempts along the way. Support them on their journey towards passion and urge them to keep going until they find out what it is — the rest will fall into place.

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

That’s a great question. I believe that success isn’t something you achieve. Rather, it’s a mindset of continuous pursuit. It’s about going to sleep at night with no regrets. Sure, there may be opportunities to improve and learn from but I view those as enabling rather than disabling functions.

Success is about being in the moment; it’s about spending quality time with my family whilst knowing that Buckingham Futures is flourishing whether I’m there or not. This is because my direct reports are empowered to make their own decisions about the business and because there are openness and transparency across the board.

Success is NOT bragging about my accomplishments or how many VIPs I’ve had dinner with.

Ultimately success for me is based on four pillars: happiness, health, growth and purpose

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

My favourite parenting book is ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents: Guiding Your Children to Success and Fulfillment’ by Deepak Chopra.

It serves to remind me how blessed I am to have children and how we must respect them and love them and the importance of how to discipline them with both love and respect.

His philosophy and way of writing is fabulous, and I love how he separates the laws into actions to apply daily with specific ideas for family activities.

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favourite life lesson quote has always been ‘Don’t Take Anything for Granted’.

I constantly remind myself to appreciate what I have, while I still have it.

I repetitively practise turning my thoughts toward appreciation, because that is where I find my strength and power.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see more people get involved in mentoring. It is more than the transfer of advice, knowledge and insights. As well as the personal satisfaction of sharing skills and experience, being involved in mentoring also provides exposure to fresh perspectives, ideas and approaches and an opportunity to reflect on my own goals and practices

Mentoring helps young people develop their character, raise aspirations and improve their academic attainment and helps them achieve their potential.

From undertaking mentorship, I have developed a passion for working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those at risk of offending.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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