Children who don’t spend time with their parents are at risk of making poor choices, experimenting with the wrong things and spending time with less than desirable influences. I think this is absolutely more true today than it was when I was growing up. I observe my kids having tremendous demands on their time between school work, sports and friends and are subjected to all sorts of challenges with social media etc that I didn’t face as a kid. Without the safety and security of strong parental guidance and support the pressure can be detrimental and bad choices happen quickly. In my view parents are the most important developmental influence in a kid’s life.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Anthony Palmer. Tony is the Founder and Chief Executive of TropicSport, combining his passion for e-commerce and extreme watersports, a deep commitment to the health of the planet, and Australian roots to create safe and environmentally friendly skincare and sunscreen products that can withstand the rigors of surfing and other water sports in extreme tropical environments. Tony is a global business leader and board member with an exceptional record of accelerating growth and enhancing profitability at leading consumer brands, including Kimberly-Clark, Kellogg, and Coca-Cola. He brings extensive global marketing and general management experience, and expertise leading Digital/E-commerce, Innovation, Sales, R&D, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Corporate Communications. Tony holds a Master of Business Administration from the International Management Institute (now IMD) in Geneva, Switzerland, and a Bachelor of Business Marketing from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and is also recognized for his ability to attract and develop top talent.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in Australia. My father was a sheep shearer and abalone diver. For fun, my entire family were watermen and women, actively involved in surf, life saving, diving, waterskiing, spear fishing etc. In my early years the Ocean was central to our family activities and brought us together. Unfortunately, my parents separated when I was young and my father had a stroke when I was in my late teens which left me with the added responsibility of supporting him. As a result, I never graduated from high school. Regardless, I was the first person in my family to attend college and did so as a mature age student due to having to spend a number of years working to support my father and myself while he recovered. Despite my coming from a broken home, my parents instilled in me a sense of mate-ship, of right and wrong and a very strong work ethic for which I am extremely thankful. My upbringing left me with 3 passions. A love for family and mates above all else. A passion for the ocean and watersports. A desire to give my kids every opportunity to live meaningful and purposeful lives by giving them access to education and experience.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
I spent 30 plus year building a career in large corporations working in multiple countries around the world. Immediately prior to April 1 this year I was a C-Suite executive in a Fortune 150 Company for 14 years progressing to Global President about 6 years ago. I also serve on the board of a Fortune 500 company. My passion in life was business and helping people win in business. Then four things happened over a period of 10 years. I met my wife, Lisa the love of my life, we had twins Jack and Kate with whom I went back to the water and rediscovered my love of the Ocean and I was diagnosed with Lymphoma which, I was fortunate to beat. As a result of these events I came to understand that the toxic chemicals in Sunscreen are both killing the reef and causing all sorts of medical issues including lymphoma so I resolved to develop a high performance natural sunscreen. My wife and I launched the company a year and a half ago and I left my corporate role to be CEO of TropicSport on April 1. My desire is to do well by doing good for people and the environment.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
Over the past 15 years my life was extremely programmed with the calendar laid out two years in advance for board meetings and international trips etc. Every day was filled with meetings with staff, customers. On average I travelled internationally once a month and domestically a couple of times a month. My day would start at 5am with a work out. I would be in the office by 7.30 or 8 am. Time for pre-reading prior to meetings and thinking and writing presentations was carefully scheduled into my day. My schedule was managed by a personal assistant and I had a chief of staff to ensure that actions were followed up on. I would endeavor be home by 6 for dinner any time I was in town and I would do preparation for the next day once the kids had gone to bed. Now in my new role as CEO of an e-commerce start up I am completely in control of my own calendar which shifts constantly to the latest crisis or issue. I do everything for myself including booking my own travel. It is very liberating and exciting but very different!
Can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
I know first hand from growing up in a broken home, children who don’t spend time with their parents are at risk of making poor choices, experimenting with the wrong things and spending time with less than desirable influences. I think this is absolutely more true today than it was when I was growing up. I observe my kids having tremendous demands on their time between school work, sports and friends and are subjected to all sorts of challenges with Social Media etc that I didn’t face as a kid. Without the safety and security of strong parental guidance and support the pressure can be detrimental and bad choices happen quickly. In my view parents are the most important developmental influence in a kid’s life.
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?
When I was diagnosed with Lymphoma it was a wake up call. I was taking the most important people in my life for granted — my family. I made a number of changes that really worked for me.
First, we bought a house in Mexico at a surf break. I made a point of spending long weekends and holidays there with my kids doing the things we love — surfing, swimming etc. Mexico has become our special place as a family where we reconnect and our kids bring friends so we get to know their friends by sharing our love of the ocean.
Second, I realized that with twins, one on one time was important so I started taking one on one trips with each of the kids to where they chose what we did and where we went — great bonding time.
Third, I changed my approach to setting my calendar. Board meetings first as I had no choice. Vacations, sporting events and key family events go next, then we put my work commitments around those. That way family priorities got first call.
Fourth, when in town I always made sure I was home for dinner and the family ate dinner together every week night. We always ate out together as a family on Friday and Sunday nights at our favorite restaurants. Meals are family time.
Fifth, We have supported our kids passions. My son, Jack, loves waterpolo and is in Croatia this summer playing water polo and the whole family will support then go sailing together. My daughter Katie is passionate about marine biology and conservation and she is attending the Island School in the Bahamas for a Semester of her junior year and we the whole family will visit mid-term for the parents weekend. Their individual passions are supported by the family as a unit.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
Its not what you say but how you behave that matters. One of my proudest stories was Jack who was in about 5th grade was playing soccer and I was caught in traffic. His mom told him I may not make the game and Jacks response was NO WAY Dad always does what he says. This is important, your word is your bond with your child. Do what you say and say what you do!
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I think the most powerful thing you can do for a child is to really believe in them. Support them when they do well and more important, help them pick themselves up when they don’t. Also, encourage them to pursue what they love. My daughter wants, more than anything in the world, to be a marine biologist and work in ocean conservation and my son wants to play waterpolo in college — although he is only 5’ 9”. We have encouraged both of them to think about being the best they can be at what they do. My daughter applied for Island School and wasn’t accepted. She was devastated but went back talked to people, studied what she needed to do and reapplied and was accepted. My son — despite his lack of height has worked hard, trained hard and is going to Croatia with the Tony Azevado all-star team to play this summer. He may just make it to play in college if he truly believes. All we have done is encourage, support and believe in them.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Success to me is your kids and wife seeing you as their friend that they want to share their successes and failures with and that they know you will be behind them come hell or highwater without judging them. But ultimately success is your kids being happy, healthy and contributing to society!
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
I haven’t really been inspired by books or podcasts. To me my greatest inspiration has been two things. First, facing down your own mortality with cancer really made me realize what is important and that was a gift that I was given that is hard to explain to those who haven’t lived it. Second, my wife is the most giving person I know and both my kids take after her. They inspire me to be more selfless and giving everyday as I am the more selfish member of the family.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You know you have made it when you get more pleasure from others achievements than your own.”
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. 🙂
Always be ready with small acts of unrequested kindness. Be ready to introduce someone to someone who can help them when they are in a tough spot. Help someone when they need it without expecting anything in return. If you do that over time it will come back to you in spades over time when you least expect it!
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!