Peak Performing Family Business Strategy 1: Understanding Your Place in the Family Business
By Kyle Danner
While some businesses fold under pressure, peak performing family businesses thrive. They grow, expand, and build a legacy for the next generation to continue. As I mentioned earlier, there are 5 elements that set these businesses apart from others. The first of these elements, understanding your place in the family business, is one of the most important. And it’s something you can start working on immediately.
Understanding, and really making, your place in the family business starts with you. Sure, there are others involved like mom and dad or brothers and sisters. But it’s what you bring to the table (your motives, expectations, talents, skills, experiences and desires) that are the foundation for your career in the family business. Without a clear sense of those qualities, you will find yourself limited and probably frustrated with not feeling fulfilled in the family business.
To help you figure this out, here are some questions to think about and some resources to guide you along in the process.
Why Are You There in the First Place?
No matter your reason, being clear why you’re working in the family business is important not just for you but also for your family. You might be there to help out during a busy time like a holiday. Or, the business may be a place where you can get back on your feet after a particularly rough patch in your personal life. Maybe you want to carry on the family legacy or enjoy some of the perks of a successful enterprise. No matter the reason, be honest with yourself and your family on why you really come to work every day.
But be careful if you’re there because you don’t know what else to do with your life. I know the family business can be a safe place, but don’t make it the job of last resort. This will only lead to frustration for yourself and unneeded tension with your family.
Are You Temporary or Permanent?
Do you know for sure? It’s tempting to assume that your job is permanent, but if you haven’t talked to the owner (whether it’s mom and dad or another family member) about the long-term plans, you don’t really know.
If you haven’t shown interest in ownership, either by your words or your actions, selling the business may be part of their plan. If that happens, you’ll no longer be a member of the owning family. You’ll be another employee. Any benefits or autonomy you enjoyed will likely disappear along with your job.
Are You the Right Person in the Right Seat?
Jim Collins in Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap...And Others Don’t popularized the phrase “right people, right seats.” It’s a simple concept. For any organization to be successful, they need more than just people with knowledge, skills, desire, and experience. They need those well-qualified people in the right job, or seat, to be successful.
Family businesses trip over themselves when loved ones are given jobs for which they’re ill-qualified. Even if this is a short-term solution, either fill an empty seat or help a family member struggling, it creates a long-term problem.
Consider whether you’re the best person for the job you’re doing now. Are you properly qualified? Is there somewhere else where your skills could be better utilized? Have an open conversation with your family about how you can best help the business.
What if the Business Isn't the Right Place for You?
Working in the family business has a lot of benefits, many of which you may not fully realize, especially if you’ve never worked for anyone else. It’s things like having the ear of the boss (which just happens to be your mom) or more autonomy in decision-making or in setting your schedule. But, despite those perks, staying in the family business may not be the best place for you—and that’s okay.
If it’s not, or you’re not sure, check out my blog post “What To Do If The Family Business Isn’t For You.” Maybe your circumstances have changed or you have discovered more about yourself and what you want out of your life. Whatever the reason, leaving the family business isn’t a sign of failure. It’s a very mature realization that there are other options you need to, and want to, explore.
Discover the Path to Your Ideal Life
There’s a lot that goes into understanding and making your place in the family business. It’s not just about whether you can do the job. It’s whether you want it, for yourself, and whether you want to take a leadership role. That last piece about leadership isn’t mandatory, but it may be expected.
If you don’t know what you bring to the table or whether the business is the right place for you, you aren’t alone. Many people who grow up in family businesses are in that same boat. When I worked in my family business, I was, too. That’s why understanding your personal goals is such a vital part of finding the right career for your future.
My free guide, The Ideal Life, can help you do just that. This guide is filled with worksheets you can use to gain a deeper understanding of who you are, where you want to be in the future, and what you need to do to get there. Click the button below to download your copy.