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When you work for a family owned business there are plenty of pros and cons to going around. If you are considering going to work for a family owned business let me give you some advice that might help to make a decision about joining a family owned business. I have worked for family owned business for over ten years so I know the ins and outs of what it is like to be in the thick of it. They like to keep it in the family. 

They hire family members whether they are good or bad at whatever position they stick them in. I have also observed when family members are forced into a position they have absolutely no interest in. It is always a recipe or disaster when owners do this. If you are looking to work for a family owned business you better be prepared for the craziness that comes with it. The family fights, drama, and tempers don’t stay at home they come to work as well. 

It can get crazy when personal and professional lives mix in the work environment. This makes working for a family owned business at times feel like the wild wild west and everyone is out for themselves. You as an outsider feel like you need to pick up the slack of a family member that’s not pulling their weight. It happens more often than you think. 

A family business is not a “normal” company. You work with colleagues who are closely related to the boss or owner. Which creates apprehension and at times tension within the company. What I can tell you is that when you go into a family owned company after a while you become like family. The environment although at times can be toxic it can be good too. It’s not as stuffy or formal as working for a corporate company. 

In this article, I am going to tell you the pros and cons of working in a family owned company. We will also discuss some ideas for creating and managing successful working relationships in a family-business. I am also going to reveal the unspoken rule that many people don’t realize when entering into a family owned company, so let dive in.

Pros of Working for a Family Owned Business

Meeting in a family owned business
  • A family owned company has a more relaxed environment which can be pleasant for non-family members. After working with them for a while you become a part of the family and some may start to treat you like family. This creates a great informal working environment that makes you comfortable.
  • It makes it easier to make big decisions in a family owned business. You don’t have to go through multiple layers of bureaucracy, which is standard in larger organizations. They are more flexible and open-minded to new ideas. 
  • When a family runs a business the desire to keep things profitable and stable is very strong because they are doing it for future generations. This is good for you because it creates a safe and secure job. 
  • You will have a greater opportunity to wear more hats which only gives you a leg up because you will get experienced in a variety of areas within the company. 

Cons of Working for a Family Owned Business

Family working at a family owned business
  • Earning a promotion may be difficult. This happens because when it comes down to promoting an outsider over someone in the family they are always going to choose family. In a family owned business, their loyalties to their family comes above everything else. 
  • They are old school so you may face resistance when you want to make changes that will improve the way the company works. Family owned businesses are big about traditions so when an outsider tries to make changes they may see this as harmful to their business. 
  • You may feel like you are left out of decisions because they have discussions outside of work like at home or after hours. 
  • The discipline process works differently. If a family member makes a mistake they will most likely get a second chance whereas an outsider may not. 

 Strategies for Success in a Family Owned Business

Understand your position – If you have big dreams of becoming a part of upper management or a CEO one day a family owned business is not the place to do that. Those spots are strictly reserved for family and close friends. The chances of an outsider heading the business are slim to none. You need to know your professional goals going into it.

 If you are looking to grow and learn without having to cut through the red tape corporate companies have then a family owned business is the place for you. Don’t expect a lot of promotions and titles because they aren’t coming your way and if they do great. They are also not very big on giving bonuses and raises. They often take advantage and dump more work with no compensation so be careful and know when to push back or else they will run you into the ground. 

Don’t take sides – Mind your business when it comes to family drama. As entertaining as it can be just watch from the sidelines. If they expect you to take sides when it comes to a family disagreement remain neutral. You can listen to the problem, but never get involved or try and solve the problem. There are always three sides to every story the 2 people who are in disagreement and then the truth. 

You also need to know that sooner or later that disagreement will get resolved and you don’t want whatever you said to sound as if you took aside. It keeps you out of the crosshairs of both family members. 

The Unspoken Rule in Some Family Owned Businesses:

The Unspoken Rule is only known to people who work inside of some industries. It shocked me when I found out, but it also taught me a valuable lesson. In some industries, especially the fashion/garment industry family ties and communities run deep. What many do not know is that once you are in one of these family owned companies that have deep ties to a community the loyalty lies to not only their family but to their communities as well. 

What does that mean for you? It means that if you want to leave one family owned company for another within that same industry you will never even make it to an interview. They have a no-poaching agreement which means that they will not recruit, interview, or hire from each other employees. This is not in any documentation, but just something that just is.

For example, currently, I work for a childrenswear manufacturer and if I ever wanted to leave I would most likely have to leave childrenswear completely or go into a different industry. That is how close-knit these communities are. So make sure to do your research before jumping in because it can get bumpy working for a family owned business. 

Final Thoughts: 

I know that was a lot to take in, and it may seem like a recipe to kill your career, but that is not the case all of the time. I have worked my way up a Production Manager while learning the ins and outs of the business which gave me the knowledge I might not have learned anywhere else. I like the family environment where there is no dress code or formalities in the office. We argue over issues, but we do it because we all want what is best for the company. 

I have created many long-lasting friendships and even when people do leave most wind up coming back after a couple of years. That speaks volumes about a company in my opinion when they come back. They are always welcomed back and we pick up like they never left. It is a great feeling knowing that going to work is like going to our second home. Especially since we spend the majority of our time at work. It might be a little dysfunctional, but what life without a little disfunction.

Looking for a new job check out these top resources to help get you started:

Want to learn more about what I do check out A Day In The Life Of A Production Manager.

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