I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My grandparents on my mother’s side of the family own a business. My parents own a business, even though it’s my dad who does all the work. My sister owns a business and you could even argue this blog is a business, albeit a kinda crappy one. If I wanted to work in the family business, I’d have plenty of choices.
And yet, I’ve neglected to be involved in all of them. I help out every now and again, mostly to help people who are in a jam and make sure I don’t get kicked out of the will, but I don’t really have an active role. I’m a pretty nice guy when you promise me money at some point.
But wait, astute readers are saying, wouldn’t participating in the family business be a way for me to end up with even more money? I’ve had more than one opportunity to participate. Family members tend to give the next generation a pretty good deal on the business if the kids continue it, my family included. So why was I a chip guy instead of getting into business with a family member? Let’s look at the pros and cons.
If you do decide to go into the family business, the advantages are obvious. You’ll be working with people you know the best, so at least you won’t have any surprises. You’ve generally got a pretty good idea of how dad will react when he gets mad. If he’s a yeller at home, chances are it’s going to be twice as bad at work. Try not to cry when he makes fun of your shoddy work.
You’re also looking at family functions turning into quasi-work events. Depending on how close you are to your family, this could either be good or bad. Other family members won’t appreciate this, unless they’re in the business too.
How about some of the bad stuff? Cause there are a few issues if you decide to get into the family business.
What happens when things go horribly wrong? Nobody goes into these types of things thinking about the worst case scenario, but it happens. One day you might get tired of Uncle Si’s stupid one liners around the duck call building table, and tell him to piss off forever. That’s gonna make the next family dinner and Phil and Kay’s house pretty awkward, even if you love Jesus and good ol’ American values.
There’s no doubt that even a successful business arrangement can bring stress to a family. It can lead to a situation where the business does well, but nobody wants to hang out afterwards. Is it really worth a successful business if you can barely tolerate your family in the meantime?
And then there’s the jealousy involved among siblings who don’t join the family business. Two brothers join dad’s house construction company, the third doesn’t. The company does well and the third brother struggles a little. Don’t you think there’s going to be some resentment there, even though all brothers probably had the same chance to join the business? People tend to blame others for their problems.
One of the main reasons why I didn’t join any of my family’s businesses is I was looking for my own path. I thought that if I joined the family business, I’d always be my dad’s son, and not Nelson, doer of his own things. Even though I know I could have gotten sweetheart deals to take over, I thought it would be better if I shaped my own path. I have no problem if you take help from your parents – I sure did – but there comes a limit to that generosity.
Do I think you should join the family business? If it’s something you’re passionate about, knock yourself out. If you’d just end up building houses anyway, you might as well work with the old man. But if you’re just doing it because grandpa is giving you a sweet deal to continue things, I’d recommend forging your own path.