So, you want to get into the family business? Whether your family has a business you’d like to join, or you’re thinking of applying to a family-owned company, there are things you need to consider before making a decision.
Just because you already have an “in,” so to speak, doesn’t mean you should just go and get it. After all, a job is still a job, and a wrong move may end up affecting not only your career, but also your personal relationships. That’s why it helps to look at things from the perspective of a professional and not a family member.
To guide you in making that decision, here are six questions to ask yourself to see whether joining a family-owned business is right for you.
Do you believe in the company’s cause?
It’s hard to give your 100% for a cause you don’t believe in, so the first thing you should ask yourself is whether the family business’ mission aligns with yours.
This applies even to non-family businesses, but considering that most family-owned businesses tend to have more rigid structures that influence their operations and work culture, it helps to put extra thought on this.
If you’re unsure whether you connect with their cause, then that’s usually a red flag that means their values and culture are too complex for you.
Do you fit in the company’s culture?
‘Company culture’ may have become a buzzword in the business industry, but that doesn’t reduce its significance. Just like purpose, joining a family business that has a culture you can fit in is crucial if you want your work to be meaningful.
According to Josh Bersin, culture is one of the easiest things to spot in a business because it’s evident in “people’s behavior, enthusiasm and the space itself.” And although having a hip company culture is trending these days, what’s important is having a culture that encourages respect among employees from all levels of the organization.
A family business that doesn’t have a healthy culture may tempt you with promises of easy promotions or higher salary, but don’t fall into this trap.
Being able to score a decent managerial position and a hefty paycheck in the short term is nice, but if the work culture is toxic, this can only breed unhappy employees that don’t make a positive impact in the family business.
Are you joining because your skills are needed?
Training the next generation to take over the company is common practice among family businesses. But there are instances when some companies would create a position just to accommodate a family member who needs a job.
For many professionals, joining a family business is the easy choice because they already have an “in,” so it’s easier to get accepted than on other companies—which isn’t necessarily bad. If you’re joining the family business because your skills are needed, then that’s fine. But if a position will be created just for you, then that’s a red flag you may want to consider.
You might be able to get in, but when times get rough, and the business needs to downsize, employees that are not part of the core structure – that includes you – are more likely to be laid off.
Are non-family employees treated equally?
Family-owned businesses can be either of two things: one that welcomes non-family employees as one of their own or one that treats them as outsiders.
You want to join the former, not the latter.
The ideal family business is one that treats all its employees equally – even the non-family ones. That means when conflicts occur, the family members that are part of management can set aside their personal interest in the family and put the business first when making a decision.
Is the management transparent about the decision-making process?
Transparency benefits a family-owned business in two ways:
- It prevents conflict between family-member employees and executives.
- It increases the employees’ trust in the management.
Having a transparent culture is part of what makes a business, whether family-owned or not, retain its top employees and make it more successful in the long run.
Are you on good terms with family employees?
When family members that manage the business are in sync, then the whole organization is more productive.
This can be seen in how Jim D’Addario, the 65-year-old CEO of a family-owned string manufacturing company, encourages the younger generations to get to know each other.
In an interview with Forbes, D’Addario, who is running the company with his brother, says they want everyone in the fourth generation to “communicate with each other better and know what they’re doing, whether it’s related to the business or not.”
If you’re joining the family business, take a while to consider how healthy your relationships are with family members working in the organization. If they’re already strained, then working together could make things worse.
Ultimately, joining a family business comes with the same considerations one should take when making a career decision. Personal relationships may make it more complicated than applying in a non-family business, but if you know what you want, then you can make the decision that’s right for you.