Wednesday, April 11, 2012


While my title may suggest a walk down TV’s memory lane, I’d really like to address the topic of working for a family owned business. If you are lucky enough to get a job offer in this tight economy, there’s a good chance that it will come from a small business which can often be a family business as well. But before you accept any offer, you might want to consider a few things I (and many others I’m sure) have learned along the way about working for a family run operation.

Personally, I have worked for three during my career and I’ve noticed some similarities that I think are worth sharing. Whether there are more pros than cons depends on your specific situation, but generally, here’s how I see it.

First, the money probably won’t be as good as if you worked for a larger company with bigger profits and a bigger payroll. Owners tend to be stingy and infrequent with pay raises, and make sure the family is taken care of before the employees. I can’t really blame them, but it still bears mentioning.

Next, your chance of moving up in the ranks isn’t very good because the ownership likes to reserve the management positions for family members only. They do this to retain control but can carry it to such an extent that little gets done because of internal bickering. Often, the son has inherited the business from his father and they don’t see eye-to-eye on how things should be run. In a lot of cases, offspring are pressured into “keeping it in the family” because the parents “have worked so hard to build the business”. Many times, they grudgingly accept the responsibility and end up running a business that their heart is just not into. Ultimately, customer service and the bottom line both take a hit, adding problems to an already dicey situation.

Additionally, many owners are so emotionally attached to their business that they fall prey to poor decision making and impulsive moves when things start to go south. They insist on using outdated and inefficient methods of doing things because they don’t know any other way, and are usually unwilling to accept any advice from outsiders. Thus, the “nobody’s gonna tell me how to run my business” attitude prevails and the owner ends up shooting himself in the foot because he can’t swallow his pride.

On the up side, family employers are usually more flexible when it comes to work schedules, and the environment is more casual too. Dress codes tend to be lenient and if you need to talk with the boss, you can sometimes do so directly without going through the long chain of command found in larger organizations.

Now I’m certainly not advocating that you don’t take a job just because it’s a family business, this is no time to be picky. But just remember that when you go into a family business if they aren’t happy there, you’re probably not going to be happy there either.

Caveat Emptor!