Working for a family business: good or bad?

by Greg Skloot
Small Business   |   4 Min Read
working for family business good or bad

If you’re considering joining a family business, you may be conflicted. While on one hand, being a part of your family’s business and carrying on the legacy, can be very exciting. On the other hand, some people may find it limited and it could result in conflict with your family members. Consider these pros and cons to help you make your decision:

Pros

1. You get a head start

With a family business that has been operating for years, you may be stepping into an operation that is well established and has a steady flow of customers, revenue and profit. Compared to starting a new business yourself, many of the hard questions have already been answered.

2. You can carry on your family’s legacy

For many people, working for a family business is an exciting opportunity to carry on and grow your family’s legacy. If a far back generation started your family business, it can be thrilling to be passed the torch and take the business to the next level.

3. You get an opportunity to work with people you care about

If you love your family, it can be a great situation to work with them every day. It is an opportunity to spend more time together, bond and grow closer. It also means you will be working with people that you can hopefully truly trust and already have strong rapport with.

4. You have a clear path for advancement and management

Depending on your role in the family business and succession planning, you may be groomed to become a leader and take over the business from the previous generation. While in traditionally companies you’d be competing with many others for these positions, in your family business you have a clear path.

5. It can be very lucrative

Family business owners typically keep profits within the family. While not all businesses are successful, a family business that has sustained itself for generations is likely to generate significant cashflow and profit to the owners, which could be you.

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Cons:

1. It may feel like it’s not “yours” because you didn’t start it

For an adventurous entrepreneur that is eager to start something new, sometimes a family business doesn’t quite scratch the itch since it isn’t new. You are joining and ultimately taking over an existing operation. You’ll have many opportunities to grow and change it, but the seed came from a prior generation of your family.

2. Other family members may be overbearing and controlling

If a previous generation (e.g. your parents) are still leading the business, they may be particularly controlling or are holding back succession until they feel the time is right. This can be frustrating for a new generation who wants to move quickly.

3. Conflict may come to your personal life

When conflict come up in a family business, it is hard to keep it at the office. These conflicts naturally seep into your home life and can cause distress outside of work. In the worst cases, business conflicts can tear otherwise peaceful families apart.

4. It may be limited to an industry that you’re not as interested in

Since a family business was likely created a long time ago, it already is established in an industry. If that industry happens to be one that doesn’t interest you, it’s possible you may find working in the family business dull and uninspiring.

5. You don’t have full control over your own destiny

Finally, joining a family business can sometimes make new generations feel as though you are stuck fulfilling someone else’s dream rather than creating your own. The company’s general products, direction, headquarters, etc have already been planned out. This can be convenient, but sometimes a frustration for certain types of leaders.

Bottom line: there are clearly pros and cons to working for family business. It’s neither good or bad; rather, it depends on the type of person you are and the career that will be more fulfilling.

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