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Five Questions to Help You Think About Joining the Family Business

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By Craig E. Aronoff, Ph.D.

Anyone who is considering joining the family business would do well to consider five questions Jack and Suzy Welch raise for anyone considering a new job in their BusinessWeek column. We’ve paraphrased them here and added the family business dimension.

  • Will my co-workers be compatible with me? If you are joining your family business, perhaps it is more likely that you’ll fit well with the values, personalities and behaviors of those already employed. But maybe not. Personality clashes or rivalry between parents and children or siblings can make things very uncomfortable.
  • Will the job stretch my mind and build my skills? In many cases, new entrants to the family business have an opportunity to take on a challenging position early in their careers. However, working in the family business can also trap you in a highly controlled environment or wrap you in a cocoon. Many people who take on jobs that are not challenging find that their job performance suffers as a result of lack of motivation. Searching for growth opportunities is important to long-term career success.
  • Will the job open or close doors for me should I choose to leave the family business? Joining the family business doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll never have another job. If you don’t come to the job with a solid résumé of accomplishments and skills, and if you fail to hone your skills successfully and take on tough assignments, you may find that your future opportunities will be diminished.
  • Will the job be fulfilling? If the work you do and the output of the company aren’t fun, exciting and meaningful to you, even if it is your family’s business, think very hard about pursuing your career there. Locking yourself into a career that you have not chosen can lead to resentment of your family and the business.
  • Who am I making happy by taking this job? Are you considering a job in the family business because you are interested, excited, challenged and motivated by the prospect, or are you doing it because it is expected or because it will make your parents or your siblings happy?

The decision to join your family’s business is a very important and sometimes difficult one to make. Make sure you are ready, and make sure you do it for the right reasons. Realizing you’ve made the wrong choice is tough no matter who you may be employed by—and especially when it’s your parents or other relatives whom you leave behind.





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