To give you the full story, here are some of the major downsides of working with your family:
‘Mommy’s little girl’ syndrome: Although it’s possible that you’ll achieve almost instant trust with your family, you might have to work extra hard for other colleague’s respect and support. Personally, while working in my mom’s business, at times I felt that my authority and competence were questioned simply because some of my colleagues saw me as mommy’s girl.
The shop’s always open: Often times, for the sake of the business, shop-talk can take away time from sharing with your parents things outside of work. It might even be the focus during family gatherings. At times I felt that I was loosing access to the personal side of my mom because we were mainly talking shop. However after some time I realized that nothing was lost. It was more a case that our relationship was changing and evolving.
Increased tension: Undoubtedly adding the business dimension to a family relationship is bound to increase the tension. Be prepared for there to be differences of opinion on matters that impact more than at what time you can borrow the family car or at what time you can come back from a party. In our family’s case the tension was manageable and did not have any lasting negative effects, but I can certainly see how working with parents can easily hurt relationships which are fragile to begin with.
Un-real expectations: While the risks of working in a family business are real – it’s your inheritance that’s on the line – it’s possible that your family will be unrealistically kind and understanding towards you. Personally, I experienced a mini-rude awakening when I went to work at other organizations, in the ‘real world’. To begin with my bosses were not as nurturing and forgiving as only a parent can be.
Too comfortable to grow: If your parents tend to be protective of you, it might lead to you getting too comfortable. Although my mom is very demanding of me, I know that at the end of the day she’s bound to forgive me. Knowing this made me a bit soft and at times I found myself not pushing myself as far as I tended to in other organizations.
If like me you have the option to work in your family’s business, the best approach would be to get experience in other organizations – say for 2 to 5 years – and then go carry your family’s torch. The reasoning behind this is very much in line with what I wrote in an earlier post about college graduates with entrepreneurial spirits (like me) getting a day job before jumping in to their own business.
What do you think?
(Photo from Jill Greenberg’s exhibition End of Times)