Working for the Family Business
By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer
I have always envied people who grew up knowing that they would be absorbed into their family business. There must be a comforting predictability that stems from having your professional future carved out for you. For many, their early professional lives are rife with uncertainty and the inevitable missteps taken on the thorny road to forging a meaningful career path. This road is largely a foreign one for those who graduate directly into the welcoming arms of a known and established entity. While it may sound like a tired cliché when people say they started a business to provide a solid future for their children, you can’t argue with the logic. But what is it really like when all your co-workers are related to you? How easy is it walking into your boss’s office and asking for a raise when that person is your father? What happens if you are not interested in working in that particular field? The grass, as they say, may not always be greener.
What are you going to be when you grow up?
Not uncommonly, many people in their twenties go through a great deal of professional trial and error. Career dreams often collide with the reality of having to eat and pay rent. And a great deal of anxiety can be born from this lack of career definition and security. Having to take on the world (seemingly) alone can be a daunting and frightening task. But do those who are reared into a family business experience these same trials?
Rite of passage
While trying to find a meaningful career is an unwelcome challenge for some, being ushered into a family business poses equal difficulties for others. While I was able to forge my own way (with varying degrees of success), some of my friends rolled up their sleeves and dove right into their family-run enterprises. While many of these friends did not envy my hardships, some of them felt that they were denied the ability to spread their wings and create their own professional futures. And this can certainly lead to a certain degree of career stunting and possible frustration.
But I really am sick!
As a child, it was virtually impossible to earn a sick day from school – my mom ran a pretty tight ship. As such, it is unfathomable to imagine having to report to her in my professional life. As a proponent of keeping my personal and professional lives sequestered from one another, I would certainly find great difficulty in working among a group of people who have seen me cry over an episode of Bugs Bunny. My capacity to negotiate a raise or some extra vacation days would be rendered moot if making them to a close family member. But, for others, working within a family structure is normal and extremely nurturing. For these, it may seem entirely foreign to rely on total strangers for your own professional and financial prosperity.
Passing the torch
What is certainly universal, however, is that a great deal of pressure is bestowed on the incoming generation. Not only is one faced with having to extend the family legacy, but even making the decision to take on the task is a difficult one. Such decisions become far more emotional and involve a far greater element of personal sacrifice. Whether deliberate or not, a great deal of guilt can be associated to a decision to veer away from entering the family business. By choosing to forge your own path, it can feel as if you are turning your back on your family and their years of hard work. It is never easy trying to go your own way but is certainly something that needs to be discussed with the family.
Solicit impartial help
If you have become involved in your family business, you are making a great personal and emotional investment into your career. When involved in such a business that is surrounded by a lot of emotion and personal history, it could be a good idea to involve impartial outsiders to assist with any brewing conflicts. The mechanism of making difficult business decisions is greatly facilitated when involving impartial and objective outsiders; this can resolve a lot of conflict before it even begins.
The most difficult step is always the first. As with anything related to your career, think carefully before making any commitments and use whatever information is available to you to assist with the decision-making process. If you are in the fortunate position to be able to enter into a successful family business, take the time to consider the ramifications and whether it is the right decision for both you and your family.
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