Did you know that about 90% of business enterprises in North America are family owned? Most proprietors want to pass their business down to the next generation, so you are not alone in grappling with whether to work for your family. There are definite advantages, such as leadership opportunities and job stability, but you may be hesitant to work in such close proximity with the people you’re closest with. If joining your family’s business is something you’re considering, this post should help you weigh your options.
Pros of Working for Your Family Business
You know what to expect from your colleagues. When entering into the family business, you have the advantage of knowing the people you work with, which can make it easier to manage expectations. Knowledge of your mother’s penchant for punctuality or your father’s meticulous eye can set you up for success from the get-go.
You may benefit from a more relaxed work environment, particularly if your family runs a small business. Breaks may be more flexible, getting time off could be less tricky, and you may not have to worry about formal performance evaluations.
You get to continue the legacy. The majority of family businesses are multi-generational, and most parents report wanting to pass down their business to their children. A recent study by Family Enterprise USA found that 73% of family businesses have multiple generations working alongside each other, and nearly one-third of family businesses have been running for four or more generations.
Your family wants to see you succeed. When it comes to family-run businesses, you are all in it together and have a vested interest in each other as well as the business. If you are just starting out or lack industry-related skills, it is more likely a family member will give you a chance than a stranger. You will get to learn the ropes and develop your skills in a nurturing environment where the stakes aren’t as high if you make a mistake or fail.
You get more control. Consider the likely scenario if you were to take a junior position at another enterprise. It could take years to work your way up or to even have a say in important company decisions. If you decide to join your family business, chances are good that your parents will want you to eventually take the helm. They will likely let you weigh in on key decisions and give you the chance to lead, because they are grooming you for succession.
Cons of Working for Your Family Business
There’s no such thing as a fresh start. You normally get to start a new job with a blank slate, but when your boss is your father, you may find him making assumptions about your work ethic or bringing up past mistakes and transgressions. Of course, you may run into the opposite problem, where it’s assumed you can do no wrong. Managing expectations can be challenging if your past is constantly coming back to haunt you.
There may be a limit to your advancement. In some cases, new generations are able to access higher positions in a family business early on, but in general, family businesses are smaller, so there may not be as many opportunities to move up (particularly if another relative is already the designated successor to the business). Furthermore, if your family struggles to give you appropriate feedback or mentorship, you may not develop the skills you need to succeed should you ever decide to find a different job.
You could end up feeling trapped. Did you join the business because you felt compelled by your family or because you had no other prospects? If that is the case, how are you going to make use of your aptitudes and skills? Before taking a position, you must consider whether it will engage and fulfill you. Does the job excite you, is the work meaningful, and are you excited to learn and grow within the company?
Emotions can become involved. When you work with your family, it can be easier for your professional manner to slip than if you worked for a different company. You may interpret a conversation about your job performance as a personal attack and lash out at your relative, rather than accept the feedback and try to do better. Likewise, committing a minor infraction may cause your relative to lash out at you in a way they wouldn’t with another employee.
Your family relationships could suffer. Work-related issues can easily creep into your personal life when you work with family members. During family dinners and activities, the conversation may often turn toward work, making it seem like you can never get away. Similarly, family conflicts can also carry over into the workplace, creating tension and distracting everyone from doing their jobs.
Making it Work
Ultimately, only you will know whether joining your family’s company is the right step for you. If you do decide to join the business, here are some tips to help make working with your relatives as smooth and enjoyable as possible:
- Make good communication a habit. If you feel you’re being unfairly blamed when things go wrong or if you’re feeling micromanaged, it’s important to let your family know, as opposed to bottling up your resentment.
- Do not fight in front of non-family employees if a personal conflict spills over into the workplace. It not only affects morale but also makes it difficult for other employees to respect you and your family.
- Cultivate your family relationships. If you already get along with your family, chances are good that you’ll have a positive and productive working relationship. Once you start the job, maintain that relationship by spending time together outside of work. Avoid work-related discussions and focus on each other.
- Maintain your independence. If you spend too much time with your family outside of working hours, you may eventually feel a loss of independence or personal identity. Try to develop new hobbies or take part in activities that are yours alone, so that you can have some breathing room.
- Have an exit strategy. Joining your family’s business doesn’t always work out, particularly if you didn’t really want to work for the company in the first place. It’s wise to have a backup plan in case you decide to part ways with your parents, at least in the business sense.
Building a Family Legacy
Whether or not you choose to work for your family can depend on the nature of the situation and your own goals. Do you have an older sibling who has already taken over the reins? If you don’t aspire to a leadership position, this may be fine, but if your goal is to run your own company, you may need to look for another job. It’s important to ask yourself some questions and decide for yourself whether to work for your family, regardless of their expectations for you.
Do you work for your family’s business?