Pros and Cons of Working with Family Members: 4 Tips on How to Make the Most of Your Family-Run Business Experience

I consider myself lucky because I grew up in an entrepreneurial environment which taught me valuable lessons for life and allowed me to develop crucial transferable business skills. I strongly believe that I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to be exposed to these experiences anywhere else.

My dad had a small electronics manufacturing facility and I joined him as a full time employee after I graduated from university at the age of 22 (although I was a regular visitor at his office beforehand). It was completely my choice, I felt I had to become a part of his company because he invested in my education plus I truly wanted to know what it’s like to be a business owner.

Was it the right choice for me to join him? Well, I didn’t enjoy it that much to be honest but given another chance, I’d never change the time I spent there with him, learning from him and his staff, bringing my own ideas and pushing them forward.

Working for and with our family enterprise I realised how tough it actually is to run your business. The long hours, working day and night, not letting go of it for one minute never stops. Networking, fighting to secure your place in the market, fighting with and against competition, constantly searching for new, better, more innovative ways to do run the business. And the money issue, oh my…, is always an issue especially when foreseeing growth.

But then, the joy of seeing your efforts blossom and grow into shiny juicy fruit could never be replaced by working for someone else.

Family business is not just about the owner, his family and the fun of running a business itself. It’s about giving back to the community, developing your employees, flourishing their private and professional lives, contributing to the local economy and building future.

There are many scenarios of family-run businesses, but here I share my takes on my personal experience working with my dad.

Pros.

  • You get to experience the business first hand. Full stop.
  • You get to travel to funky faraway places and attend interesting meetings which you’d never be able to attend if you started working for someone else.
  • Your work experience is 100% hands on-the entrepreneurial spirit lives in your day and night.
  • You experience risks, failures and accomplishments every day from day one, something that would hardly happen if working for a neighbouring company.
  • You get the opportunity to jump head first into the cold waters and acquire responsibility from day one. Now, that’s what I call experience!
  • You most likely get to contribute your ideas, visions and strategies directly to the boss. You’d have to fight to get them implemented but at least you’ll be in a position to do so, which again will never be possible for a young employee if working elsewhere.

Cons.

  • You are expected to ‘live’ the business and be prepared to jump in into anything unresolved matters and become a slave 24/7.
  • Business issues are brought and discussed at home at all times. Other members of the family often get involved too (oh the joy!).
  • The respect that will be shown to you will most likely be fake and people will suck up to you at all times.
  • You’d often be looked at as a spoilt brat and be expected to behave in the appropriate manner (so avoid being flashy with new favourite gadgets, clothes, cars).
  • In order to gain true respect, appreciation and loyalty, you’d have to break through many more walls than others. Be patient, but consistent.

Tips for making the most out your family run enterprises.

  • Respect the family member who actually owns and runs the business. It’s their baby and, yes, they do know better no matter what. Be smart and play their game wisely.
  • Never argue with them in public or in front of other employees – bad move. You’ll be seen as a spoilt, unappreciative brat which in turn will ruin your chances of building trust and creating friendships.
  • Do come up with your own ideas and promote them by speaking out during meetings with and in front of other managers. Have solid proof as to why your ideas should be implemented.
  • Business ethics is the rule here. Be professional, calm and authentic and never present yourself as a family member who simply sticks their nose into the family business.

I worked as an International Sales and Marketing Manager (fancy title that only a family member could get) and opened up three foreign markets in under two years. Results count if you want to make it alone one day. Experience gained from working with my dad was and still is completely irreplaceable and crucial to my current business success.

Have you worked with a family member? I’d like to hear your stories and tips from another angle.

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