Is Working in a Family Business Worth It?

Family Business

There are Pros and Cons to Working in a Family Business. Here are Five Things to Know.

I grew up in a family business and in franchising. My parents owned a hair salon which they eventually franchised. As a family, we ran the franchise system and also owned a few salons. Throughout my childhood, I ran around the office playing with the copy machines and the telephone system. I remember sweeping the warehouse floors as a kid and learning how to properly merchandise retail products in the salons, among other things.

Through my experience, I learned that there are pros and cons to working in a family business. All in all, I enjoyed it. It was a great experience and I learned a lot. Here are five things that everyone should know about working in a family business.

The Bar is Set Higher

In a family business, the bar is set higher just because of your last name. When you’re part of a family business, the expectation is that you will somehow perform better, have more commitment, or have some miraculous skill or gift that automatically applies to you. It’s not fair, but it’s the truth. You just have to work a little harder.

It’s a Little More Difficult to Earn Trust and Respect

Sometimes employees will think of you differently since you are part of the family business. It takes a little more effort to develop trust and confidence with other team members. Some may feel that you are in the business only because you are in the family. Building trust takes time and effort. Once you have it, it’s precious. However, trust takes a long time to build and seconds to lose!

There are no Special Privledges

Just because you’re part of the family business, it doesn’t automatically grant you special privileges or exemptions from expectations mandated to the rest of the team. If there is family favoritism, that will destroy any culture within the staff. Family members must be held to the same standards and expectations of behavior and performance, if not higher. When family members can get away with things that other employees cannot, it destroys morale and respect. Don’t let your kids get away with this if you own a business!

You Have to Separate Work and Family

When you have a family business it’s hard to get away from it. Often the conversation at the dinner table and other family time can center around the business. The business can be ever-present in your lives 24/7. While this continuous collaboration can be helpful to the business, it can be hurtful to your personal life. If you never really get away from it, other important or meaningful conversations don’t happen. It takes effort to maintain any type of balance in a family business. I think it’s very important to have an identity separate from your business. In a family business, you have to make an intentional effort to carve out personal time.

Have an Exit Plan

Be prepared to eventually separate from your business. You might someday want to sell that business, even unexpectedly. You might successfully transition to the next generation, but change will happen one way or the other. Hopefully, it’s positive and intentional and creates your desired outcomes. It’s easy to think about working forever, but obviously, it’s not possible.

Business owners need to be able to separate and plan for the next phase of the business beyond their own personal involvement. This can be very difficult and an eye-opener when it happens unexpectedly. My advice is to have other good people around you who can give you that objective perspective along the way and when you need it in challenging situations. 

Being part of a family business has its advantages and disadvantages, and of course, nothing is easy. Keep these things in mind and enjoy your family business every step of the way! 

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John W. Francis has more than 30 years in franchise industry, as both a franchisor and a franchisee with multiple brands. He is a sought-after keynote speaker, industry consultant and strategic advisor. Because of his wealth of experience, he is known throughout the industry as Johnny Franchise.
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