What to Do When Your Parents Expect You to Join the Family Business
There are as many reasons to become a young entrepreneur as there are young entrepreneurs in the world. One reason might be that you intend to join your family’s business or otherwise improve it in some way. As a member of Gen-Z, you can probably look at the business built by your great-grandparents and see all the ways it can run more efficiently.
On the other hand, you may find yourself in a situation where your family expects you to join the business, but you have other ideas for your future. This could play out in one of several ways:
- They want you to skip college and go straight to work for them
- They want you to join the business directly out of college
- They want you to work for the family business part-time while you are in school
It’s ok to feel certain ways about all of this. Confusion and obligation are natural parts of growing up. You can be excited about helping at the family shop, or not. You can intend to take over the financial side of your parents’ restaurant, or not.
For those young entrepreneurs whose families already own businesses, here are some pros and cons of working for your relatives.
> You’re guaranteed a job
Jobs come and go, and job markets in every field fluctuate all the time. When you work for your family, you know that you always have a job while the business stays afloat. This is especially helpful when you need a flexible part-time gig during high school or to help you with college expenses.
> A more flexible schedule
Family members are more likely to understand when you need to change your hours because of a school project deadline. And if it doesn’t become a habit, they’re likely to be a little more forgiving of lateness or ducking out early. You can probably even do homework at your job on slow days.
> Common goals
When you work for another person’s company, you could find yourself lacking the motivation to help them succeed. Not all bosses are good leaders. But your family’s business is your business. It’s to your benefit, as well as the benefit of those closest to you, to work hard and work smart.
> Invaluable on-the-job training
Growing up with parents who run a business means you probably heard them “talk shop” around the house. They’ve already taught you things that can’t be learned in any business class. You’ve picked up hard-won wisdom through osmosis. Whether you apply that knowledge and wisdom to a future at your family’s business or not, the fact remains that you’ve earned it. And that will give you an edge as a young entrepreneur.
They know you. You know them. There’s already a great deal of mutual trust in this business relationship. That will save you the time and energy of “proving” yourself to a brand-new boss and co-workers.
> Mixing personal issues with business issues
If you had a massive fight with your sibling this morning, it’ll be hard for you both to set aside your feelings and work together later. No matter how tightly you keep a lid on those emotions, no one knows how to push your buttons better than family. And that can be bad for business.
No matter how hard you’ve worked as a young entrepreneur, non-family members can feel resentful, like you got the job without any skills or experience while they had to work twice as hard to get that promotion. This can lead to you trying too hard to prove yourself – and making bad decisions in the process. It can also lead to a lack of respect from your non-family team members.
> Feeling stuck
If your aunt pulled some strings to get you hired at her restaurant or your father has you managing a team at his small business, you’ll probably feel an overwhelming sense of obligation to those people. That makes it harder to quit when if you feel it’s time to move on, or if the job turns out to be a bad fit.
> Too much togetherness
Most of you probably still live at home with your parents. You see them in the mornings, after school, in the evenings, and on weekends and holidays. Why would you want to work with them? All of you probably need that buffer between the worlds of home and work.
Maybe you don’t want to work for your family’s business, but you have been muscled into it. Your resentment will show, leading to problems within the family. You won’t be as productive because you don’t want to be there. Eventually, you’ll burn out on negative feelings.
If you don’t want to work for your family, but you feel pressured or guilted into it, here are some ways to keep from losing your mind:
- Establish boundaries. Work is work and should stay there. Personal is personal. Make sure to speak up for yourself so that your school time and outside activities are acknowledged and respected.
- Establish roles. What exactly will be your job title? What specific tasks will be expected of you? Is there anything you think would be inappropriate for you to do at your job?
- Don’t take advantage. Just because you’re working for family at a job you’re not thrilled about doesn’t mean you can slack off. Doing so will hurt more than your future career prospects – it’ll leak into your home life, too.
- Keep your mouth shut. You might be privy to confidential information, whether it’s on the running of the business, finances, or plans for the company. Your family is still your family, and just as you wouldn’t break their trust, don’t break the business’s trust.
The bottom line is to remember that working for family is still working. Don’t try to get away with things you wouldn’t try at any other company. Respect your family. And insist on respect in return.
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