Forced Into the Family Business
I don’t have many “rules” I share with family business people I work with, mostly because every family is unique.
I also think that every family can and should come up with its own rules, “BY the family, FOR the family”.
But if you twisted my arm and insisted that I give you one rule that I think most families should follow, it’s this one:
Before working in the family business, rising generation family members
should first get a job working somewhere else for a few years.
Exceptions to Every Rule
There are exceptions to every rule, but I think this one will stand every family in good stead.
My Dad had heard this suggestion when I was younger, but he believed that our family was the exception, so I went straight into the company out of school.
The fact that I believe in this rule, despite having been an exception myself, should tell you a lot.
(Hint: I have long wished we HAD followed that rule).
Forcing Kids Into the Business
Many people who work in their family’s business are there because, to one degree or another, they were “forced” into it.
Sure, they don’t want to miss out, it’s their “duty”, and often the path of least resistance.
But deep down inside, if they had their druthers, there are other jobs or careers that would have suited these people much better.
Also, I really don’t think that forcing people to do anything is a very good idea for long-term success.
Can Forcing Them Be a Good Idea?
So I guess that it may come as a surprise to you that I actually support forcing your kids to work for the family business.
There, I said it. Yes, it’s true.
If you have a family business and you have kids, I think that it is a good idea to force your kids to work for the business.
Now, there is a very important part of the statement that I want to make sure that everyone also understands.
You may have noted it already, thanks to my word choice, which I repeated, twice.
The important word here is “kids”, that is, minors, specifically teenagers.
And, notably, I’m also talking only about part-time or summer jobs.
My A-Ha Moment
The idea for this post came a couple of months ago during the #FamilyBizChat that happens about once a month on Twitter.
The topic was family employment policies.
All of a sudden I noticed a Tweet from someone who mentioned that he thought that making the kids work for the family business was a great idea!
A Voice of Experience
When I looked at the Twitter handle of the person who posted it, I didn’t recognize it at first. Upon further inspection, I realized that what the man posted made perfect sense.
Looking at his bio and last name, I quickly realized that he was the son of a colleague I know through FFI (Family Firm Institute).
That colleague is one of the few FFI members I know who’s a family business founder.
(Most FFI members are people who work with family businesses, many of whom also have a family business background as well).
Very few run large family enterprises.
The poster noted that he believed forcing kids to work for the business teaches them responsibility and work ethic.
Who am I to argue?
I started working for my Dad’s company when I was 15, and before that, I was “forced” (strongly encouraged?) to have a paper route for 3 years.
Responsibility? Check. Work ethic? Check.
I think I turned out OK.
Devil in the Details
So let’s do a quick recap.
Part-time jobs on weekends or after school, yes, having the kids work for the family business is usually great.
This assumes that both sides are getting what they need out of it.
The same goes for summer jobs or internships, they’re a great way to learn and experience what a full time job is like.
BUT, once they’re no longer teenagers, and they’re beginning their career, that’s a new phase.
This is when my only real “rule” comes into play.
Please insist that they go and find a job elsewhere, for at least a couple of years, and then, and only then, invite them to join the family business.
You’ll all be glad you did.
See Also: From my Quick Start Guide Series: