At a certain point in life, many people face the unpleasant choice and ask themselves if they should pursue their own dreams or join a family business. For most of them, this poses a great challenge – nobody wants to be disloyal to their own kin, but what to do if you simply don’t see yourself in a family-owned company? This is not a rare problem as there are 5.5 million family businesses in the US alone. I know a fair number of people who let this decision hold them back and slow down their advancement in career and not only that – this can easily cause serious family falling-outs. Stepping into your family’s business can be the best and the worst decision for you, depending on your affinities, skills and plans for the future. When and if this moment comes, it’s important to analyse the situation and all pros and cons before making the final decision.
Benefits of joining a family business
Acquiring experience at an early age
People who own family businesses usually try to teach their children some essentials of running a company and inspire them to join in. In such cases, children often help the parents and acquire lots of experience, sometimes even before they finish school. One of the best examples I know of is Glenn Walton, owner of Brisbane Tree Experts, a family-owned business. Glenn inherited the business from his father. Unlike many, he followed in his father’s footsteps at an early age, watching and learning from him with passion and dedication.
Having a secure job and future
Taking over your parents’/cousins’ business sounds like a wise idea for those who don’t like huge challenges. The family inherited business is usually already well-developed, with a steady client base so you don’t have to waste money on initial investments. Also, have in mind that if the business continues to be successful and survives, it could secure jobs for your children as well. It’s much easier to continue and upgrade a business than start from scratch.
Loyalty between members of the team
Family businesses are perfect in theory: it’s a team comprised of people who know each other well, share intimacy and loyalty and trust each other. In reality, this is often not so ideal, but just close enough. Team motivation relies on common goals and solidarity, and the emotional support from family can be a pretty good foundation for successful common projects. Also, your family is willing to dedicate themselves to the company – for them, it’s not just “some” business they are working for – it’s a lot more.
Increased flexibility and freedom
Working in a family environment is more relaxing, since the “managers” are more willing to forgive and forget certain work-related mistakes. Even the working hours are more flexible than in non-family companies because it’s much easier to arrange your work schedule in consultation with your close ones. Also, they will certainly understand if you have “problems at home” or you have to take a sick leave – they will feel worry instead of annoyance that most bosses express when they deal with employees who have personal problems and can’t make it to work.
Potential downsides of working in a family-owned company
Lack of motivation
Forcing family members to join the company can have a negative effect. Even if they give in to pressure, they may end up working without motivation, job satisfaction and success. This way, you don’t get an opportunity to fulfill your true potentials. In the end, this may be detrimental to both the employee and the business – we get a business with loads of employees who don’t want to be there. If you’re the person who is forced to join the business – you get stuck there for life, taking responsibility for a business you don’t truly love.
If a business owner decides to hire or promote an employee just because he or she is family, it may affect the success of the company in the long run and decrease motivation of other employees (who may actually possess adequate skills and knowledge). By employing someone who doesn’t have the required set of skills (or he/she is not even interested in acquiring them), owners are harming their businesses. Only dedicated and skilled employees can contribute to the business and make it prosperous.
Conflicts and dysfunctional family relations
Not all families are ideal and relationships between family members can be extremely difficult and full of conflicts. Even when they do not argue over insignificant things, they may have different views on the company goals, mission and the way business should be conducted. Perhaps the most difficult issue when it comes to family businesses is succession and the never-ending fight over the leadership position. This may have serious consequences – not only for the business, but for the family as well.