5 Reasons I Stayed In The Family Business (Even When It Wasn't A Good Fit)
By Kyle Danner - July 03, 2019
I often talk about why I left the family business, but I don't talk as much about why I stayed as long as I did.
I worked in my family business for nearly 20 years. During that time, I helped my brother and sister grow the business into the fifth-largest printing company in Kansas City. It was a period of great personal growth and discovery. But, I knew the family business wasn't the right fit for me.
So why did I stick with it for so many years?
Recently, a client asked me just that. I's a fair question, and it forced me to really think about the reasons I kept coming back to the office.
Below, I share the five reasons I stayed in the family business for so long. Perhaps the reasons I chose to stay may be the exact reasons you're remaining in your own family business — or why your kids have stuck around despite not seeming happy.
1. It was simple.
My decision to join the business wasn’t much of a decision. I was already working at the business after college. Why not stay for a year and then re-apply to graduate school? It was easier than finding another job, and it was only going to be temporary — as temporary as 17 years could be.
Humans avoid change as much as possible. It's only natural that most of us choose the option we're familiar with. If you grew up in the family business, the reason you feel inclined to stay might simply be because it's what you're used to. It becomes a part of your identity, both individually and in the family.
2. I had autonomy.
Unlike my friends in the corporate world, I reported to only two people: my brother and my sister. That meant a great deal of freedom to manage my part of the business.
My siblings' hands were full managing finance, operations, sales, and marketing. I, along with other team members, was creating something new with our digital management and printing capabilities. Here, there was no blueprint. I could do what I wanted, how I wanted. As long as we got results, all was good.
One of the biggest benefits of working in the family business is the freedom it gives you.
3. The money.
I won’t deny it. The money provided a comfortable living. I had some fun toys like a spiffy Nissan 350Z. I never had to worry about where my next meal would come from or how I would pay rent.
But more than lifestyle, I had the funds to donate to charities that were important to me. That was a huge plus and one that supported my personal value of philanthropy. If I had started from the ground up, all of my funds would have been needed just to get by. I wouldn't have been able to support the groups I cared about, and I recognized the value in that.
4. I had the support of my family.
There was something comforting about knowing your loved ones were right around the corner, or in the office right next to you. We had our challenges, just like any other family, with or without a business. Yet, I knew I could always count on my brother, sister, mom and dad to be there.
On the flip side, I was also able to be there for my business. By helping out in the business, I felt like I was supporting the family. I was a part of something bigger than myself, and I truly enjoyed being able to help my siblings in any way I could.
5. Fear of the unknown.
I saved the biggest one for last.
Fear is often the reason we don’t make changes. It certainly was for me. I was convinced that if I left the business, I would fail miserably and end up living in a box under the highway.
Of course, that’s a ridiculous notion. I had too many advantages and too much support for that to happen. But, it was a real fear that I won’t deny. Every one of us has those irrational fears that keep us stuck.
Are You Meant To Be In The Family Business?
I’m grateful my client asked, “Why did you stay?”, because it challenged me to re-visit my reasons for staying so long. The intriguing part is that my reasons are not unique to just myself. They’re shared by many who work in their own family’s business.
If you work in your family’s business, take some time to reflect on your reasons for being there. You may find a renewed energy and commitment. Or, you may realize that the family business isn't the right place for you, that where you want to be in 10 years isn't where you are today.
Either way, I recommend you download my Ideal Life exercise by clicking the button below. This is an excellent free resource to identify your goals for the future and the steps you need to take to reach them, whether they may be fine-tuning your role in the family business or starting a new chapter in your life.