Los Angeles: Tom Stern has been in recovery for five years, two months and 25 days. His addiction? CEO Dadism— when workaholic business executives treat family like employees.
Stern, 51, beat his addiction by creating a comic strip poking fun at himself. In one comic, the main character, Frank Pitt, considers rewarding his second child’s stellar grades by promoting her to first born.
But now, with fresh successes—the strip is the basis for a new book and a series of animated shorts to run on CNBC—Stern’s micromanaging tendencies are flaring up. “That’s the thing with CEO Dadism,” Stern said from behind the desk of his immaculate home office. “You never fully recover.”
Stern tames his dark side by volunteering with recovering drug addicts and by following a strict regime of pushing his two daughters, ages four and 10, on the swing set in the backyard of his house. He still works 50-60 hours each week, but he does it around his daughters’ schedules.
Stern’s life-altering epiphany came on 23 January 2002. He was watching TV when he decided to fulfil a promise to his wife Lisa and feed the dog. When he got to the dog bowl in the back of the house, he heard muffled screams coming from the garage. Stern opened the door and saw armed men punching his struggling wife. One pointed a gun at him, but he stayed calm. “What do you want?” Stern said.
“The ring,” the man said.
Stern told Lisa to give them her diamond engagement ring and they fled with the jewel.
But the life-and-death moment was not what changed Stern. Instead, it was how his daughter, who was then five, reacted to the crisis. Unlike Stern, who was frantically calling 911, she calmly fetched her mom a glass of water and a towel to wipe her bloody face.
The little girl’s focus on her family struck Stern, who vowed to remake his life.
Stern’s new book, CEO Dad: How to Avoid Getting Fired by Your Family, retells his epiphany with a heavy dose of fiction and funnies. It was published earlier this month by Davies-Black Publishing.
Laura Simonds, director of marketing and sales at Davies-Black, thinks the book will appeal to top executives, their families and the employees they terrorize. The underlying theme doesn’t worry Simonds because workaholic parents are a reality.
“I think it’s something that families have had in the back of their minds for a long time,” Simonds said. “It’s one of those unspoken things that mom or dad just has to be that way. But in their heart of hearts they are screaming, ‘We want you. We want you back.’”
Five one-minute animated shorts based on the strip are slated to be aired on CNBC in June. A spokesman for the network said they are “in talks” with Stern but declined to confirm details.