Being a parent and also a founder perhaps can be challenging to others and might find it hard to manage their time. In this episode, I speak with Julien Labruyere about the importance of balancing professional life and time with family, especially with children and how it is different to raise kids in an Asian culture.
Julien Labruyere is a father to 2 children. He is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of Sleek (https://www.sleek.com), a one-stop solution for entrepreneurs, SMEs and investors to register new businesses from anywhere and effortlessly manage their accounting, payroll, tax compliance, business accounts and governance through a simple online platform with first-class support. Julien dives into the values and disciplines that he practises inside his business and also he is imparting to his two kids. Julien also shares his parenting style, blending in his French culture with living in Singapore.
To balance work and life responsibilities, Julien makes sure that he is setting boundaries from being a CEO to his company and being the father to his kids. He also shares how he is trying to be present and make time with his family as well as being empathetic to his employees who also are parents and soon to become parents.
To get in touch with Julien Labruyere, find him on LinkedIn:
Don’t forget to head over to www.parents.fm to stay up to date with new and previous episodes, join our community of parents in tech, or drop me a line.
This podcast series was produced in collaboration with Sleek. Enjoy an immediate SGD $100 off or $500 HKD off any Sleek services with the promo code AF370570
Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your host, Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www. to join our community of parents in tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion. See you next time!
[0:36] Introduction of the guest, Julien Labruyere
[1:01] About Julien’s Family
[1:30] Introduction of Sleek
[2:23] Julien’s journey on Building Sleek and being a Family man
[3:36] Challenges on being a Parent and managing the business
[7:25] The culture of being a CEO and being a Parent
[8:41] Values that are being practised in Sleek
[10:25] How the Values from Sleek being taught to Julien’s children
[11:44] How are Julien’s sons different from each other
[13:13] Parenting Style of Western Culture and Asian Culture
[15:59] How Julien deals with his employees who also have family
[17:13] Lessons from being a parent that is being applied to Julien’s Profession
[21:51] Julien’s Advice to Parents in Tech
[22:56] Connect with Julien
Qin En 00:00
Hi, I am Qin En. And this is the Parents in Tech podcast.
This month, we have a special collaboration series with Sleek, a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK. I speak to four parents in Sleek to find out how they create work-life integration and balance their career ambitions with family aspirations.
In this episode, I speak with Julien, CEO and co-founder of Sleek. Julien is a parent to two boys, ages five and seven. Hey, Julien. Welcome to the Parents in Tech show. Super excited to have you on today and you as a successful entrepreneur, but also you as a father. To begin with, could you tell us a bit more about your family?
Hi Qin En. Thank you for having me today. So I'm Julien, father of two young boys who is five years old and Oscar was seven years old and husband of Constance, My wife, who is also French. So we've been in Singapore for 15 years. And both my kids were born at pretty much the same time as I was starting Sleek, actually.
Oh, wow. Okay. We're gonna get into that. But before that, for some of our audience who are unfamiliar with Sleek, could you give an introduction? What is sleek?
Yep. Sleek is a fintech startup that aims to be the one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs and micro businesses to start, run and grow their businesses successfully. So we help you with company formation, legal support accounting and more recently we launched a neobank for entrepreneurs to get a bank account straight away right after the incorporation. So that's what we do.
Basically taking care of everything that needs to be taken care of so that founders and entrepreneurs get focused on product, focus on serving their customers while remaining compliant and consistent and disciplined with all of those things.
Got it. Exactly. Exactly.
So let's jump right into it. You said you started Sleek around when both your sons were born. Tell me a bit more about that journey, right? Maybe tell me a bit more about that company founding journey, and then where were you in your family life at that point?
Sure. So Sleek is my second startup. The second really serious startup. I founded the first one, (it) was in 2010 and I left the previous business because it wasn't really successful, the conception about the market size most importantly, around 20. But all along this first startup, I was very frustrated with my back office, my admin, my paperwork. And so I thought there would be, much better way, much more, much cheaper, much more digital, to do it. And out of my frustration the idea of Sleek was born. And then I met my co-founder through France. We had a common friend, a French guy in Singapore. He was more a marketing guy and more product tech and probably a bit more analytical and more creative. And so we decided that was a good time to start Sleek.
At a point where you start Sleek. Where were you? Did you already have your elder son or where were you in the family planning journey?
Yeah, my second son was born in Jan and I think we put the first PowerPoint in December the previous year. Okay. So really the two were pretty much born months apart really? And so I had, my first boy was two years old, so really lovely and getting a bit easier to manage in terms of sleep and yeah, I thought I would take a shot at starting a new business again.
You gotta tell me right at that point, when you welcomed your second son into the world, you just put together a pitch stack a month back, at a point you were meeting with investors like... what was it like, was it stressful? Were there any challenges?
Much less stressful than the first one, as parents, anyone who had more than one would find that the second one is a piece of cake and actually it works for startups as well. I think it's your mess with so many things in the first startup you get right. The second time, because of learning, I think there are many parallels between having kids and doing startups being an entrepreneur, there are many things in parallel and yeah, so I wasn't too, too worried about that because yeah. I knew it would be alright. Deep down, I had grown in experience from my first boy and my first startup.
Very nice. So both one, both, you bring the richness or experience both at home and at work. And I think that really gives that confidence, but maybe let's go a bit deeper into the support structure. Did you and your wife create it to make sure that your second son, as well as your first one are well taken care of? It's quite different. I've learned the two is to one ratio. Two adults to one child, versus one is to one. So tell me a bit more about what were some of the arrangements, some of the things that worked.
Yeah. So my wife also works and has a business and was working back then. So she had two or three months of maternity. We also have a helper at home to compensate for not having grandparents that we could send the kids to sometimes. That's the kind of structure. So it's a kind of three to two ratio with the helper. And yeah, I think that works well for us. We try to spend as much time as we can with them, so we don't expect the helper to be doing it. And I think the helper is really here to do the things that, to free up time for us to spend time with the kids. So that's really the whole objective. So everything that is to do, like going outside, going in the. Doing sports, cultural activities, we try to do it ourselves. But we do nothing as well.
We don't do any house chores and stuff. So really it's about because we work both hard. We both have businesses, so it's really about, yeah optimizing.
Absolutely identifying what are the parts that are irreplaceable. And what other parts that are replaceable and then outsourcing that much, like also running a business. So building a company is also 24/7, right? There's always things to get to, always something to be done. Tell me a bit more about how you set those boundaries. How does it look like weekdays versus weekends?
As you have kids, I think you start to learn to compartmentalize things and to really manage your time much better, because there's so many hours you can work.
And also you learn to work when you are tired because having kids, you are constantly tired. And so you need to deal with your own frustration and things not going the way you want. Yeah. And I think that teaches you a lot about time management. And so we end up, I'm not like a complete, so I like to work very intensely. Roughly eight to eight every day, but I don't do much on weekends. I don't do much at night. I don't like having calls in the US. I don't like times at 10 or 11:00 PM because when I'm here, I'm very present. And when I'm with my kids, I try to be very present as well. So I think that's how I work.
That makes sense. And so when, while you're at work, you're fully into it. And then when it's time to be with your family also, to be a hundred percent focused on them. So I think this is incredible, right? That I think you have that clarity. And like you said, probably that comes with the experience.
So now that you also started your second company, tell me a bit more about it. The intentionality behind setting the culture. Because it's quite well known, rather it's known that basically the founder, the CEO dictates right - how people work, what is rewarded, what is not, and then essentially what that's, what culture is. How did you think about that and how did being a parent influence that?
I think being a parent definitely gives you a lot of more focus on the long term. And I think when you focus on the long term, you try to focus more on culture, which is the thing that really lasts and would go much beyond what you are actually doing as a service, as a product.
And so I think it really coincides about, what are you here for? What are your values, these are the things you want to tell your kids and to teach your kids, it's really more about the value than how to do things, right? And so I think as a CEO, I became much more aware that I should be more focused on why we do things than how we do things, because that's what I do also with my kids.
And you tend to so yeah, culture has become very big. We have five values at Sleek for one, for each letter, that everybody knows in the company. 300 staff knows perfectly so stands for Simplicity, Loyalty, Excellence, Entrepreneurship, and Kindness. And so we expect that everybody knows them and behaves according to them. And that's probably, values that I bring home as well.
Got it. Now, I think as you went through your different values, the one thing that stood out to me, is Kindness, you don't see that often in company values. Tell me a bit more about how that came about and how that is put in practice.
We think it started as it's both internal and external. So we like our clients very much because they are kind, they are entrepreneurs. They're trying to do stuff. We are not in the corporate world. And I am good with years in corporate. Plenty of corporate guys and ladies are kind, but I think being an entrepreneur, I think you're trying to do something.
You are humble, you, you work hard for it. And we find that a lot and a lot are very kind. That's one side. The second side is internally as a team. I think we spend so much time together that I would rather be working with kind people than unkind people. And, there. Some people say we don't need to be friends to be working together, but I disagree.
I think we don't need to be best friends and spend our weekends together, but I need to like you to trust you to have a lot of fun working with you so that I don't feel I'm going to work. Yeah. And so a lot of. People at Sleek, most of them, I could, don't have an issue having a drink or could have lunch with them any time because I like them and they're kind right.
So we treat each other with kindness. There is a clear red line when someone treats others unfairly at the very least they should apologize quickly. And recognize it because that happens. We have up and downs. We can be tired. Yeah. With the kids and all, but there is a line. The beautiful thing is that once you have that.
You have enough density of that, I think it self-sustains and self-reinforces because people start teaching their peers about it and it's no longer me being the cop and the guardian of the values. It's people just, they love it and they live it every day. That's really beautiful.
That's wonderful. And I think that's something, it shows how things are being put in practice. Now I understand how that is done in Sleek. Now I love to hear how that is taught to five-year-old and seven-year-old sons.
Ha! It's a very good question. I think my wife and I are good co-founders of our two, two boys. I think we, we really, see, we have the same set of values. And it's very rare we disagree about certain directions and what is right, what is wrong? So that's the first starting point. I see we have a clear vision of what we consider good or not good. How we do it at home is I think, and very much the same way doing business is I don't micromanage them.
I just teach them the principles and what I consider to be important, their goals. You want to have freedom to do whatever you want later, then, study hard at school because there is no, no other way. And if you want people to treat you nicely, never be a bully, treat others nicely. You don't need to be friends with everyone, at least don't be mean to anyone ever.
And very simple things like that. But I hammer it and so it's very clear for them that there is no ambiguity of what I expect and the rest they manage. I think they are so smart and so different that they are so good. You don't need to do much, I think give them freedom and space and they develop in their own ways which are very different.
Definitely. And I think the part that you also said is about how they're so different. That's always also what I heard parents with more than one child say. Tell me a bit more about the differences between both your sons and how you came to see and experience that.
Yeah, one, one is super, I think it's striking. They look alike, but one is very much an indoors person, he reads books all the time. He can read books and he speaks like he uses words that I seldom use because he got that from the book in French and he knows a lot of things. He asked for his, wanting to like the present last time and he asked for a world map. And so he started to learn all the capitals, and the countries.
And so that's my eldest one and we haven't really been hardcore having him learn these kind of more academical things. And the other one is very outdoor. So he keeps on, digging in the dirt, looking for insects. He has an Ant farm at home and when I go fishing, I love fishing.
So when I go fishing in France, he's right behind me and he wants to learn everything. When he came by last winter, his best memory of the whole winter was when Daddy caught a big bike. So he told that to his team and to his teacher. And so there was Christmas and Santa and all the presents, but yet the best memory of the holidays was Daddy catching a fish.
So that's awesome. Yeah, that's wonderful. And I love that they're so different, but they also have ways and means to kinda express themselves. So maybe just also on that, Julien, because you grew up in a French culture. Yeah right now in Singapore, and Asian culture, maybe what was one or two differences in parenting styles that you might have observed?
I don't know what it is to be raised in a Asian culture or Asian parents. What I think is I see the first major difference is I was raised, there were no screens around. And that makes a huge difference, I think. So we try to maintain that.
I think that's probably more common amongst French (people). We don't have a TV, we don't have screens at home for the kids, they're just allowed time every couple of weeks or something like that.
Not more than that. So it's a lot, and my wife is the champion of that. She's really strong on these principles. I could be a bit more flexible, but I think that the major difference is that we have, I think, we need to cut ourselves from the screen and other kids and I think, that's the big difference that I observe. It is not so much cultural than generational, I think.
Yeah. Yeah. Makes sense. And I think this is very interesting, right? The relationship with screens. Because especially during COVID, which we just came out of working from home, you and your wife are probably in front of the screens a lot, as part and parcel of work. Was it ever a challenge to navigate that relationship your children have with screens or, yeah. What was the approach towards it? Were there any challenges around it?
It's really, when you get very tired that you are tempted to put them in front of the screen to have some peace. The only exception to anything I say is in the plane, you don't want to manage them for 12 hours when you take a long flight to Europe, for sure. So that's the time where they can watch anything they want. Free flow, everything else not. I think the main problem seriously is more us than our kids, because we are much more addicted to it than the kids.
I see they don't miss something that they have not become accustomed to. And I see them earlier. The earlier, the more addicted you get, right? So we are fortunate and we are very happy to be getting the ROI now that we struggle to read them stories all the time and even so more of my wife to be fair and honest. So now it's a good time where you get the benefits of it.
Makes sense. Makes sense. So I'm gonna shift gears a little, Julien, I also ask about the practicalities of having parents who are part of your team and part of your company. See, one of the things, especially for new parents, especially, let's say for moms, it's the four months maternity leave; for dads they take the two weeks. But in addition to that, They have to be there often for their children. There's childcare leave. So essentially, I guess that's this, sometimes this challenge that parents in tech in particular face is that on one hand, you wanna be there for your family and you yourself are adjusting to learning to be a parent.
But on the other hand, tech moves so quickly, a tech startup moves even faster. You just always have to be on top of things. Talk to me, how you navigate that relationship and help your employees who are parents or going to be parents navigate this dynamics.
Yeah. I see the first one I'd like to make is I try to never ask or expect from someone else what I would not do myself. And so I know, and being a dad myself I understand people's challenges. I tend to be extremely understanding and empathetic, right? Yeah. So we, I think that's the first thing is we are, having this understanding from the top helps, I think because before I had kids, my stance in my first startup was very different.
Probably I was not even aware, you don't always see things and you don't see the world the same way. The second thing is, I think my leaders and my managers, most of them are parents. And there is a reason, because I think if you can manage your family and your kids, I think managing business is quite an easy piece compared to managing your family and your kids.
Yeah. And there is, you can be a good leader without having kids for sure. There are plenty of them. But when you are a parent, that teaches you, I think a lot about management, delegation, time management, stress management, all these things that are quite fundamental in building, managing teams. And so I like to value that more and I see that more as an opportunity than a problem.
Nice. And maybe for you, what is perhaps one thing that you learned from being a parent and took it into work into your profession?
I think it's really being more patient and empathetic because I think, when you have kids like a startup you fail a lot of times, more than you succeed, especially your first, it's constantly struggling and things not going the way you want.
And it just teaches you patience, working under tiredness and you are just more, just more focused, long term and less rushed, or less, radical in your thinking, in your decision making. I think that makes you a much better leader. I'm, I think, humbly a better leader or worse, than I was before having learned that.
Yeah, got it. Got it. And I think that really also shows in the way that you have led and built the company. I think in preparation for this, one of the things that I noticed, it's the huge emphasis on culture that Sleek has a head of culture, which is pretty rare for startups of your size and also quite active in the whole CSR space.
So talk to me a bit more about those two things, right? Yeah. That this ability to think long term really shows? But would love to hear a bit more about the thinking behind that whole investment into this, the savings.
Yeah. Yeah. So on the culture, we have a head of culture, Aisha. I think that she was meant for the role. And she started with Sleek as a receptionist and she's become head of HR and culture for Singapore. And, through the year, just through being a good person and being, practicing the values every day, continuously. So I think to me, culture is the one thing that, is the glue that puts it and keeps it all together in good times or bad times is really the culture and the values. And having a strong one is important. You can, startup is not linear. You'll have good times, bad times. And the one thing that will prevent it from collapsing in bad times is culture. Having a set of people that are united, they know what they are here for, they know what the company stands for, they know what to expect from their bosses, their colleagues, et cetera. So it gives a lot.
It shields you when it protects you from the noise and the ups and downs. So that's the culture piece. The CSR is really more my other baby, because as you get, so I've always been aware, but I think as you get kids, you feel it's much more stressful as a parents to leave them (in) like such a shitty planet in such a bad state, like pollution and wars, and all that. And so you feel like you have to do something because it's no longer a possibility, it's real. And it's gonna, you want to, as much as you can humbly to leave the planet and the, the world in not a too bad state to your kids. And that is just a powerful engine, I think, to move to action rather than just being sad and anxious.
So we decided that we would be carbon neutral. And so our industry, the corporate secretary, the accountant, that you see boxes of paper being moved around for no reason. And so everything we do is just the opposite, right? We don't have any decent printer in the entire office. We use a home printer, black and white, scanner.
So we want to do everything digital. Every time we take transport we offset the carbon emissions from that. So we try to be really, quite radical, because I think it's important for all of us as Sleekers, as parents and future parents. And we are very proud of that.
And that goes into reinforcing, I know we don't do it for bragging or for marketing, we really do it for ourselves because we know it, we can afford it. And that reinforces the culture, the sense of belonging that our staff have with Sleek.
That's wonderful. It's really the ethos that you guys are part of a broader ecosystem. You're part of the world. You're part of the community. And it's not just about, of course, making money growing. It's super important. That probably has to come first. Otherwise it wouldn't matter. And it wouldn't be sustainable exactly. Alongside the journey are just these small actions that you can take so that you don't leave behind anything negative. And in fact, bring something positive in all aspects that you have done.
Yeah. And you will get a huge ROI indirectly. It’s the long term, but, especially the millennials, the most intelligent ones, will want to make an impact, and would want to work for these kinds of cultures. And so if you have it, that definitely helps get the right talent, which helps make a better business. So I think you have a lot of positive and reinforcing forces here.
Yeah. So true. So true. Yeah. This has been a really inspiring conversation, Julien, this sort of wraps up our time today. If there's one piece of advice you could give to parents in tech, what would it be?
Parents in tech, if you're thinking of being an entrepreneur, I think you should go for it because I think really being a parent is being an entrepreneur. You, you have a co-founder to deal with. You have big plans and you have reality that sometimes is very far apart, and you need to adjust, you need to iterate again, and again, and that teaches your humility and patience. And so I think, it's really I see a lot of commonalities between being a parent and an entrepreneur.
And so I think any parent in tech should think of themselves as entrepreneurs. And I know a lot of people are sometimes shy of crossing the river and becoming their own boss. I think, if you are a parent, you are crossing a much bigger river than any business. Yes. Go for it, correct?
Correct. It's a journey crossing the river that is irreversible, right?.
You start a company. You can close it. You can sell it off. You can sell off your company. You can exit your family.
Yes. Yes, exactly.
Wonderful. That's super well stated. Julien for people who wanna connect with you, connect with Sleek. What are the best ways to.
I'm an old man. I'm an old dad. So find me on LinkedIn. I don't have Instagram. I don't have much Twitter, so yeah, LinkedIn, and I'm always happy to meet and discuss with fellow founders and parents in Singapore where I'm based. So thank you. Thanks a lot for the enjoyable discussion, Qin En.
No problem. Thank you so much, Julien. And we'll include your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Sure. Thank you.
Thanks for listening to the parents tech podcast with me, your host Qin En. we hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www.parents.fm. To join our community of parents in tech, there, you can also draw me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion once again, the website it's www.parents.fm.
That's all for this episode, folks. See you next time.