“A good parent is one that takes time to be an active participant in their child’s life regularly. A good parent wants to give their children all of the resources they did not have as children. A good parent also passes on the lessons they have learned growing up so your child doesn’t have the same problems growing up”.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Raymond (Ray) McKenzie, Founder and Managing Director of Red Beach Advisors. With more than 20 years of experience as a senior business executive and consultant leading global organizations ranging from small businesses, startups, and large enterprises. Ray has held various senior executive positions with companies such as Verisign, Neustar, State Farm Insurance, TeleSign, UltraDNS and has served in an advisory role for several start-up companies in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Ray McKenzie completed his studies in Management Information Systems from San Diego State University in 2001 and is a certified AWS Cloud Practitioner (CLF). Mr. McKenzie is also a certified Lean Six Sigma sensei (CLSSS) practitioner from Villanova University, is a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) from Scrum Alliance. Mr. McKenzie currently sits on the board of trustees for Resolute Academy Charter School in Watts, CA, on the board of directors for My Friend’s House, Inc. based in Los Angeles, CA and Students With Aspiring Goals based in Merced, CA and regularly speaks to groups of children and youth regarding entrepreneurship, leadership, and achievement.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in a small town in Central California. My father was stationed at Castle AFB and I was born soon after my father and mom relocated with my older sister who was born in Boston, MA. My father completed 22 years in the USAF and then completed another 20 with the USPS when he retired. My mom completed 4 years in the USAF and became a registered nurse. One of my parents were always at home. However they worked separate shifts so one could always be there when I got home from school. They both worked hard and had very nice careers. I was always a very good student. School was never an issue and I enjoyed it. I also played a lot of sports in my youth. My parents worked hard to provide a stable lifestyle for my older sister and younger brother. They both stressed education. They both focused on being responsible. They both stressed working hard and taking care of your family.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
I started my career directly out of college and spent 15 years working in corporate America. I worked with several startups and public companies in technology and cybersecurity leading several different organizations. I led groups very early in my career and worked in many different areas with each of these companies. I led departments and personnel in service delivery, support, tech and network operations, business operations, sales engineering, strategy, account management, and sales. The experience of leading the various departments, organizations, and initiatives led me to gain a wealth of information about multiple businesses, industries, and most of all people.
Traveling throughout my career was mandatory. At one point I was on the road every other week for a long time. My oldest son was developing his love and seriousness about basketball. To be the best basketball player, you have to play in Los Angeles to see the best talent. A company hired me and relocated myself and my family to the Los Angeles area. The company was full of great people. Lots of people in the company did not have kids. Their kids may have also been older. But I was on the road now once a month for 7–10 days in Europe. My wife and I have four kids. Raymond Jr, 18; Royce, 10; Roman, 8; Tahlia, 8. Being away for that amount of time caused me to miss a lot of things that were going on in their lives. Traveling, and not on your own schedule or your choice, resulted in missing school meetings, games, events, recitals, and that’s tough. My parents were not able to make my games and I always held that close to my heart. I never blamed them for that because I understand the sacrifice they had to make.
I reached a point in my life where quality of life was the most important. I needed the opportunity to dictate my schedule to make the family events and place a priority on my life. I needed the opportunity to work with people I wanted to and wanted to have fun with. I needed to be able to work on projects and with companies that were interesting. That is how I started Red Beach Advisors.
CEO’s that I met or had previous relationships with began to call me about helping their companies build, grow, and scale. I was at my previous company and learned that by consulting with other companies, I was in control of my schedule and my life. I became the leader and boss. Once I had a taste of that and I was able to provide for my family at the same time, I started my full-time journey with Red Beach Advisors.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
My schedule starts at 5 AM. I am in the gym for 90 minutes. Once I get home, the kids are getting up to get ready for school. I like to fix them breakfast, but sometimes they want to fix their own food. They get off to school around 7:30–8 AM. At 8 AM, I start my phone calls and attacking my to-do list. I typically have calls and meetings until about 2 PM. The calls and meetings can be with consultants or clients. After 2 PM, I start to work on my tasks that need to be completed. The kids get home at 3 PM and start on their homework. During homework time, my door is always open. If they have questions, they can immediately come in and ask. I continue to work until they have practice. If my daughter has cheer or dance, my wife takes her. That’s their thing. My wife was a cheerleader and cheer coach. I typically take my sons to basketball or baseball practice and coach them as an assistant. We get home around 7 PM and they eat dinner, get cleaned up, and go to bed. I usually work from 8–10 PM. Then it’s one hour of reading or TV with my wife and asleep by 11 PM. My wife is also a business owner/entrepreneur so she’s busy too.
Let’s 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?
As an African-American man, I have seen the effects on our communities and families of not having a positive role model or father around can do to children. Providing and portraying a positive image for your children is important to their development. Children see everything. They may not understand it, but they see it. If you do not spend time with them, they may not know why, but they will find other people, places, or things to spend time with. Children I grew up with who did not have parents spending time with them often turned that parental time into time with others in the streets or taking part in activities they should not have.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?
It is important to spend time with your children to set a positive daily example for them. Spending time with your children allows you to instill morals and values into your children. You are able to teach them lessons that may or may not be taught in school. You can provide a path of guidance to how they should live their life, how they should treat people, and what is important for them as they grow up.
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?
I regularly spend time with my children helping them with their homework, watching sporting events, attending and coaching their practices, attending and coaching their games. We also go out to eat regularly at restaurants. It is important to have a good mix of activities that teach various lessons. Helping them with their homework and being available helps them know the importance of education. Sporting events allows for time to relax and just enjoy. Sports and coaching allows my children to see me in a different light of teaching and fun. Visiting restaurants teaches them about different cultures, different foods, and behavior in restaurants and how to conduct yourself in public. Every activity has a reason behind it. We also mix in just playing video games just to have fun, laughs, and joke with each other.
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?
The five strategies I would share are:
- Let your kids know they can come see you and talk to you about anything at any time. Companies and leaders have “open door policies”. Parents should have that at all times too.
- Plan time daily where you are available and interact with your children. It could be making breakfast. It could be making dinner. It could be reading a book. It could be watching a movie. Plan time daily to spend with them even if it’s 30 minutes or an hour.
- Get involved in activities outside of the house that your child is interested in. This can be coaching teams, school PTA, arts and crafts, robotics and engineering classes, cheer or dance. Your children need to see you show interest in things they are interested in.
- Hug your children daily. Children get older, but they need to know you love them. I still hug my oldest son. I hug my younger children daily a lot. Minimum twice a day each of them. The hug and quick conversation of “What are you up to?” can mean a lot.
- Prioritize the time with your children and family. If there are games or events, do your best to make those events or moments. Children look for their parents throughout games, recitals, and events. Children want approval. They want to be told “Good job” or “I’m proud of you”. Make the time to be there. Make the time to participate and be active.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
A good parent is one that takes time to be an active participant in their child’s life regularly. A good parent wants to give their children all of the resources they did not have as children. A good parent also passes on the lessons they have learned growing up so your child doesn’t have the same problems growing up.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
Children have wild imaginations. They have lots of dreams and big dreams. I tell my children regularly if they work hard, they can do what they put their mind to. My youngest son talks quite a bit about video games or creating video games. My wife and I bought him a series of books of how to create video games. This will spur his imagination and allow him to read on how to develop or create a video game. The goal is to understand what they are interested in and provide them resources to continue pursuing their dream.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Success is the ability to have achievement professionally and happiness personally with family and friends. I want my family to be happy. I want my family to have the resources to do anything they would like to do. I want my family to have my support. I want to have achievement professionally and achieving certain levels professionally enable my family to have happiness.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
I enjoy Tony Dungy’s books, specifically “Uncommon”. He talks about his values as a parent. He was a very busy NFL coach, but was able to instill morals and values through his faith and beliefs into his family. He’s an ideal role model for a parent.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My father told me several things, but one thing always stuck with me. He said “Take care of your family.” To me that not only meant financially, but also to support your wife and children and make sure they are happy and doing well.
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 develop a movement to require entrepreneurs and leaders of companies to get involved with youth and children to provide positive role models. This can be in affluent neighborhoods. It can also be in lower income or underprivileged communities. Children are a cause near to my heart. I get involved with organizations that provide support and services for families and children. I would ask that entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders get involved with mentoring children and showing them how to be leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners and teach lessons that they have learned in life. Give back and help young parents and children. Set an example and continue to assist.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!