There is a lot at stake when the next generation of working shareholders joins the family business full-time, according to Stephanie Brun de Pontet and Carol Ryan, consultants from the Family Business Consulting Group, Inc.
Brun de Pontent and Ryan note that placing family leaders in a family-owned business is likely to strengthen the family’s commitment to the business, and deepen their connection. However, these family employees need to learn respect and abide by the rules just like any other employee. While it’s terrific to see a family member rise to a leadership position within a family business, they should be expected to earn this position just as any other employee would.
“In a family business, it is not unusual for non-family employees to feel next-generation family members who come to work for the company "have it easy" by virtue of their name. These co-workers will witness the family employee's easy access to top leadership, special opportunities and what appears to be an ‘automatic entry’ into the organization. What they may not see is that the position comes with a host of challenges as well,” wrote Brun de Pontent and Ryan in a recent article in the Family Business Advisor
Often, family employees face challenges that other employees do not, including pressure from family members doubled as employers, the feeling that work doesn’t end when leaving the office—especially when they may live with employers, and additional awkward remarks and comments.
Below are some of the issues that Brun de Pontent and Ryan find worth discussing as part of "on-boarding" a next-generation employee in the family business, as taken from their article in The Family Business Advisor.
Living under the microscope –
While it’s true that having the family name can give you a leg up in some circumstances, it also means you are immediately under a different kind of scrutiny. You cannot as easily "learn from your mistakes" like anyone else because you aren't anyone else. While many next-generation family members have grown up with warnings from their elders to "behave," because their behavior would affect the family's reputation, this pressure is different when it comes to your work reputation.
Coping with the legend –
It is important for each individual to find their own place in the business, with their own individual role based on their personal strengths. A lot of young family members struggle with their own ideas of "living up" to expectations and the traditions of accomplishment of their family. Many young people put a lot of pressure on themselves to live up to what prior family members have accomplished. While it is wonderful to have family members to whom you look up to and admire for their accomplishments, this admiration should never lead you to seek to emulate your parent or other family member.
Managing employee relationships
- Any new employee anywhere wants to make a good impression on his or her supervisors and colleagues. When you are a working shareholder in your family's business, you may find managing employee relationships trickier than you expected. First, while you should be yourself and seek to have appropriate social interactions with employees, there are boundaries for family members that are different for other employees. You are "different" by virtue of being in the family and some in the business may treat you differently or make assumptions about you that you will have to work to overcome.
Relating to family
- In addition to navigating complex interactions with non-family employees, there are a few changes to family relationships that you may encounter when you begin to work in the business. The most obvious is how to relate to your family members who also work in the business. From thinking about how to address your parent at the office to thinking about the appropriate mentoring or work relationships you can have with other family members, you now have to establish professional relationships with people with whom you have a lifetime of personal history.
Brun de Pontent and Ryan note that these are important things to think about when joining a family business. While becoming a part of the family business can be a wonderful, empowering opportunity, it’s important to be aware that all business rules still apply to you, and that often you may have to be even more aware of your own actions and behavior than you would in another business.
Source: The Family Business Advisor, February 2012 Issue, www.efamilybusiness.com