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4 Reasons For Working In The Family Business

By Kyle Danner

Why do you work in your family’s business?

It’s one of the first questions I ask someone who works in their family business. The answer provides insight into their personal satisfaction, decision to stay, or consideration of leaving.

But, in some cases, people aren't sure why they work in the family business. Maybe they work out of obligation to their parents. Maybe they grew up working in the business, and it's just what they're used to. Maybe they didn't know what else to do.

The family business isn't for everyone, but it certainly has its perks. Take a minute to answer the question above for yourself so you can determine if you're in the right place for your goals.

The 4 Most Common Reasons People Work In The Family Business

The reasons for working in a family business are varied, but can generally be divided into four categories [1]:

  1. Desire - "I like this work. I enjoy closing sales. I enjoy managing the finances. I enjoy working on complex problems the business presents. I believe in our mission, purpose, etc."
  2. Obligation - "I’m here because dad needs me while he recovers from back surgery. I’m helping Uncle Joe because he needs someone with a marketing background. This is a family business, so I feel like I have to pitch in during fall harvest or the holidays."
  3. Greed - "I want the big paycheck that lets me have the big life with the big house and all the toys. Or, the cost of NOT being in the business outweighs any negatives of staying."
  4. Need - "I don't know what else to do with my life. I don’t know what I want to do. Working here at least gives me something to do while I figure out what I really want."

Our reasons will vary throughout our working life depending on the job and circumstances. If our motivations fall within the categories of desire, obligation or greed, our life satisfaction, and productivity won’t vary much.

The biggest red flag flies when someone keeps a family business job simply out of necessity. This speaks to a fundamental incongruence between who we are (our identity) and what we want (life goals). While a fat paycheck may be nice, that missing piece of motivation may lead us not to put our best foot forward. It can leave us feeling unfulfilled, stressed and resentful.

Ask yourself why you’re in the family business in the first place, or why you’ve chosen a particular career path. Remember that we can work due to desire, obligation, greed and need depending on certain circumstances.

Then ask yourself if your current position feels temporary or permanent. “I don’t know, yet” is an acceptable answer, but commit to spending time reflecting so you discern an answer. It could very well be that you’re not in the right position and that your strengths could be put to better use. Or, it may be time to consider a change.

What Is Your Ideal Life?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer, but it's a necessary one. After all, if you know where you're going, you can take the right steps to get there.

So how can you determine if you're in the right place or if leaving the family business is the best option? Download my free guide, The Ideal Life, and find out!

This guide is full of worksheets to help you really think about your vision for yourself (and the steps you need to take to make that vision a reality). If you aren't sure your role in family business is right for you, this guide is a great place to start.

Click the button below to download your free copy.


READ NEXT: 4 Ways To Find Your Place In The Family Business

[1] Family business scholars Pramodita Sharma and P. Gregory Irving presented the four reasons the journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.