Whether you have parents with a business, or know of family businesses, you may read the title of this blog and instinctively answer, “yes” in your head. Working alongside your father or mother sounds great! Employment at your fingertips, stability, and less pressure sounds ideal, but is it?
My experience with a number of family businesses has lead me to believe that it takes a very special parent-child relationship to achieve success. If you’re thinking of joining your parent’s business, there are some important questions to ask yourself before making a decision.
1. Do you have the right skill-set/education?
It is important to add value to the business, not just for obvious reasons, but also to feel like you truly have earned and deserve your spot. If your skill-set does not align with the business, the experience may be challenging – either because you’re not engaged (due to a lack of interest) or because you can’t grasp the work.
2. What relationship do you have with your parents?
Critically analyze the relationship you have with your parents. Will the level of respect that is necessary in a professional setting be met? If your relationship is tumultuous outside of work, chances are that will translate into the workplace.
3. What type of work environment are you looking for?
If you’re looking for camaraderie amongst coworkers and equal treatment, working in the family business may not be for you. As the child of the owner, the company employees automatically see you differently, and work can even become a lonely place.
4. What are your long-term goals?
Do you plan on staying with your family business forever? If so, do your parents plan on having you there forever? Your goals must be aligned with those of your family. If you plan on taking over the business, how long are you willing to wait? Your parent may not be ready to relinquish the business to you as soon as you think.
5. Will you have the autonomy you want?
Are you trusted enough to make decisions and have your voice heard in a family business? It is often easier for parents to undermine the opinions and ideas of a child rather than someone they have a professional relationship with. If you’re looking to have creative ownership and freedom, you must decide whether it exists for you in your family business.
Ultimately, it can be difficult to successfully integrate yourself into the family business. Whether you’re starting from the bottom and working your way up through the organization, or moving right into the corner office, you must understand the risks that come with mixing your professional and family lives.
Have you ever worked for a parent, or experienced second-hand a parent-child relationship in a business? Please share with me any experiences or input you have on this topic in the comments below.