Sean Stephens, Father of four, CEO of Treefrog Inc.
Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal
With his bright green hair, perfectly tailored outfit and easy laugh – Sean Stephens makes a big impression. We chatted with Sean about how he’s created a life for himself and his family that is a seemingly perfect blend between business and personal. His exuberance is contagious and we found ourselves completely inspired by his zest for life.
Tell us about Treefrog Inc.
Treefrog is a digital transformation agency – we transform businesses through technology. We started out as a web development and digital marketing agency and through the years we’ve shifted towards incorporating AI, drones, robots, IOT and helping businesses achieve their goals through all sorts of technology.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
Treefrog was actually founded by someone else and in 1997 I bought the business with my ex-wife and another partner. We moved the business into our house and for the first few years we literally worked and lived in the same space. We had our first child who was very sick and had to manage the health problems, while growing this new business. When we had our second child, we had eleven people working in my living room!
That sounds intense!
It really was a crazy time. We moved into a new office space and my ex-wife is a very talented interior designer (she actually designed our current office space) and turned it into a great place to work. During this time, my ex and I separated amicably and have since married other people.
So I have 4 children in total (2 biological children and 2 step-kids) and we exist in a really great blended family.
How do you guys manage the blended family and all of its challenges (scheduling, the different relationships)
It’s interesting because my ex ended up marrying the head of development at Treefrog and I’m married to the head of sales! So not only are we blending families, but we’re all connected through our work. My ex no longer works with Treefrog and has since gone on to open a very successful interior design firm, but we’re all interconnected.
We have great relationships, actually, and we co-manage the family. We have a pleasant dynamic and we’ve been able to mix lives and hopefully the kids are mentally stable and have a great foundation. Often in families, the kids are the ‘suns’ and the parents kind of orbit around them. In our experience, since the adults are the strong personalities, we are each our own ‘suns’ and our kids orbit in and around what we’re doing.
Talk about balance.
Yeah absolutely – it takes a lot of organization and the kids kind of cycle around this milieu of families. We have one ‘main’ house for which is my ex’s and I make sure the office is family-friendly so that I can spend as much time as possible with the kids.
Having a family-friendly office must be a great perk for staff.
I really believe in lifestyle innovation and efficiencies, so making sure the office is kid-friendly is so important. Every Friday we have a hairdresser come in so I bring the family in for haircuts. We’ve had sleepovers at the office for my daughters. My 11 year old son is deeply involved in developing and doing quality assurance for a new product we are launching soon. It’s just business merged completely with personal – the way I believe it should be, because I love my work so much and I love my kids so much.
You’re a big proponent of efficiencies – do you have examples of how you’ve incorporated this into your life in other ways?
I wear pretty much the same thing every day – it makes it so much easier and I don’t have to think about anything at all so it saves time. I have 70 of the same white shirt, 50 of the same underwear, and a drawer with about 200 of the exact same socks so I never have to fold or sort them. If you open my bathroom cupboard you’ll see rows of the same toothpaste and chapstick. Efficiencies!
Any advice on how someone can be more efficient in their own life?
My advice is to find the things you hate to do that you can pay someone else to do. So for me it’s anything to do with lawn care – I just don’t get the concept of having a lawn. So I’ll make sure I pay someone to do it and save my time towards doing things I enjoy instead. Its lower-value activities vs high-value (which for me are spending time with my kids or on the business).
Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone – how did you know it was something you’d enjoy?
I have a high adoption of risk – I grew up in a war zone so everyday was risky. For me, big risk equals huge wins.
Do you think the entrepreneurial bug has rubbed off on your kids?
Well my 11 year old definitely shows signs of it! He paid some construction workers to help him carry a basketball net that he found back to the house and then sold it on Kijiji! He also sets up a lemonade stand on the main street and raked in some money there. He realized he was spending too much on the lemonade so he found a cheaper lemonade – I guess he’s learning about margins and quality control. My younger son loves art and he’s created a comic book series. And we love to do geocaching as a family which takes a lot of initiative and decision-making.
You’ve blended family and work life successfully, but you also spend a lot of time supporting the local community. Where do you find the time?
Profit in a business is like breathing – you have to have it. But being in business is so much more than profit. I want to know I’ve had a positive effect on those around me and helped as many people as possible. We spend a lot of time and work with the community – whether its supporting the local Pride Parade, developing apps for local charities or ensuring our company is being as environmentally conscious as we can. Fighting for what’s right is a part of our business and what we believe in. So in terms of finding the time, we make the time because it is a big part of our values.
If you had advice to give to your 20-year old self, what would you say?
I believe we’re all set to write a story of our lives. I’ve put everything I can into making my life awesome – nothing is a foregone conclusion. So I don’t know what I would change or say other than to enjoy life!
Sean has found a really inspiring way of blending work and family life – to not only maximize efficiencies all around, but also to maximize his time spent with higher value activities aka spending time on work he loves and with his loved ones. Did we mentioned he’s also the lead singer in a band, Sean Stephens and the Distractions? To learn more about Treefrog Inc., check here. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and you’ll get these interviews straight into your inbox! And if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be, contact us.