Making Family Business Work for You


The Challenges and Benefits of Working in the Family Business

I know a couple of things about family businesses because I grew up in one, worked in it, and know what works and what doesn’t.

When studying the family business model, you have two main working groups:

1. Family members working in the business

2. Non-family member employees

This dynamic makes for an interesting work environment. Whether you fit in group one or group two, there are Golden Rules to help you make the best of working in a family owned and operated business.

Family Members Golden Rules:

Maintaining a Professional Environment

One of the biggest challenges in family business is what I call the Comfort Zone. Family members are so comfortable with one another that communication becomes very casual, especially in-front of non-family member employees.

Systems and Structure

This is often missing from small to medium size family businesses. Owners don’t think they need systems, or if they have systems, they frequently don’t follow their own systems protocols.

Avoid Micro Management

This is a big issue. Many business owners want to micro manage. This practice causes processes to slow down because everything is dependent on one person making decisions.

Developing and Empowering Non-Family Team Members

Many business owners feel that if they invest in training and teaching their team new skills, they will end up hurting the family business, because sooner or later, the person will leave and steal either their clients or their ideas. This is what I call “Stinking Thinking.”  Training is an essential part of building business. If you don’t train, you won’t grow.

Refrain from Showing Favoritism

This is a biggie in family businesses and a big faux pas. Favoritism kills morale and motivation within the organization. Business owners need to recognize employees based on performance, not connections.

Non-family Member Employee Golden Rules

It takes a very special person to work in a family business, especially in a small to medium size business. There are many dynamics to juggle. If you find yourself working within a family business, keep in mind the following Golden Rules:

She Said, He Said Syndrome

You don’t know who the leader is. He asked you to do one thing, she asked you to do another. You are caught in the middle of He Said ,She Said, which is a terrible place to be. The most effective thing is for you to get clear and concise direction from one person, reporting to one person. This practice avoids drama and misunderstandings.

Position Description

Having clarity in your job responsibilities is a must. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go the extra mile or multitask when asked, but it does mean you clearly understand your role.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Keep in mind, you are not family. Sometimes, you are put in a situation to take sides. It’s best NOT to get involved. Do not talk badly about a family member. In the end, family members will kiss and make up, and you will be out!

Go With The Flow

Although it’s good to be creative and make recommendations, sometimes we feel our way of doing things is better than their way; but keep in mind, it’s not your business. You need to go with the flow and pick the battles you can win.


The best golden rule is to always maintain a professional relationship with all family members, non-family members and other co-workers. Have a positive attitude, keep smiling, be helpful to others and go beyond what is expected of you.

Working in a family business can be great! It’s much more flexible than the corporate world. You’ll find family businesses are more compassionate, understanding, and caring. If you are looking for a new career or you’ve never worked for a family business, maybe now is the time to try it, or maybe it’s time for you to start your own family business!

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