Are you wondering if joining family business will be a good idea or a total disaster? Read our guide to know if you should join your dad’s business, and everything to know before you make the decision.
If you are asking this question, you are lucky to have this option. Yes, a lot depends on what type of business your dad (or mom) is running too. In my opinion, a good business is one which involves minimal involvement from the promoter/owner and is primarily run by a team of professionals, and is profitable at the same time.
If you dad is running a professional service firm in which the business is primarily dependent on his involvement, you should only join it if you have the professional training, interest and a vision to scale it up.
Following Your Passion or Working for Family Business?
The most common advice that we get from people while choosing our career is that you should work in some area that you are passionate about, which I humbly disagree. I believe it’s okay to have a career in a field you are not very passionate about, but at the same time, you have a hobby where you can passionately dedicate your time and mind, too. In my view, if your passion is your work, then over a period of time, your passion may fade away, very much like a chocolatier seldom eats his own chocolates.
At a young age, it may seem like a passion is forever. However, burnout and personal growth may change your passion over time or even leave you passionless. For example, famous tennis player Andre Agassi, and Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh have both publicly spoken about their love-hate relationship with their respective professions, despite being highly successful. “I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have,” Andre Agassi has said in his autobiography.
Working for Family Business: Good or Bad?
It’s highly likely that you may not be very passionate about your dad’s business. Since your dad and family have worked very hard over the years to build this business up, you should definitely give it a shot.
Many businessmen make the mistake of getting their kids on board in their business right after high school or during their college years. In fact some even raise their kids preparing them to join the family business straight into senior management position. This keeps the child from gain fresh perspectives and humbling experiences, both of which are required in leadership positions.
It would be wise to gain some experience elsewhere, where you are not treated like the boss’s son. You should gain at least 3 to 5 years of experience in similar or different industries, which expose you to new ideas and business processes. You also need to learn to serve, so that in the future, you can lead others. Once you have some work-experience, you can then consider quitting job to work for family business.
What to Know Before Joining Father’s Business
The best way to know if you should join your dad’s business is if you have business acumen or at least an interest in developing it. This means leadership skills, people skills, talent acquisition, strategizing and financial acumen.
When a boss’s son or daughter joins the family business, they are not treated like a fresher or new employee. People have high expectations from them and are often unforgiving of their mistakes. So it is a good idea to take a mid level position and think of yourself as an intern. Silently observe the workflow, office culture and dynamics, clients, different types of employees, etc.
If you plan to join your father’s business, you need to work your way to the top. You need to gain respect of people in order for them to respect you. Once you are in position to lead, you can then put forward you vision.
Hopefully, if you find the business interesting, you will start developing ideas and vision of where you will take this business. If you can find common ground between your vision and that of your family, you can join the business and work your way up.
You have to strive to be a leader, not an owner’s son or a young boss. It is good idea to develop leadership skills by observing your father’s leadership style. Try to understand why the employees respect him (or not) and try to emulate his good qualities so you develop trust within the workforce.
Extended Family Business
Now often it is the case where your father is not alone in his business. He may be a partner or the business may be part of your extended family. So in such cases, the decision may be more complex, and most of the time, it’s not a straight forward answer. Whatever the case may be, it’s best to have professional approach to business.
One of the most successful family run businesses in India is the Murugappa Group. You can read more about them here in this business case study. Having worked with Murugappa group for almost 10 years now, I believe they have done an exceptional job of balancing family and business.
Pros and Cons of Joining Your Dad’s Business
If you’re wondering whether or not to join your dad’s business, here are the pros and cons you need to know, as nothing is just black and white.
- Forget dinner table conversations on any topics other than business.
- You will feel that your family is way more involved in the tiniest aspects of your work-life, compared to how they would be if you were doing a job. They will come to know the most minute and unnecessary things you do at work, and may voice their opinions about your work style.
- Forget having a personal life at work. In a family business, they mix without boundaries.
- You will have to maintain a professional decorum with your family members at the work place.
- Relationships in the family may get strained due to different work styles and values. If you are impatient, you may feel tired of working for family after a point.
- The risk of splitting family business is very common. If you look at Indian family businesses, most of them separate themselves after a while. Only a very few stick together.
- Joining a family business gives you a head start into your professional life.
- You start by earning enough to be financially independent. In the early years, when your classmates are barely managing to put a roof over their head, you’ll be earning enough to even pursue hobbies.
- You get the opportunity to rise up the corporate ladder fast.
- Learn trade secrets that took your family years to learn.
- You make industry contacts leveraging your parents’ goodwill. This network can help you realize your vision or even start other businesses when the time is right.
Family Business or Corporate Job?
Think of your career objectively. A job is not just to fulfill your passion, but also to pay your rent and earn your expenses. So think of whether you can earn more if you get a masters degree and a job or by joining your dad’s business. If that is the case, will you still earn more in a job if you scaled your family business? If so, it’s better idea to explore other options. In fact, ‘why do you not join your family business’ is a common interview question. I would highly recommend reading the book Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter.
There is no clear cut formula that can predict whether should join your family business or not. Often the elders already have a plan in mind for their next generation. It would be wise to discuss things out with them. Having good and transparent communication in the family can remove a lot of ambiguity and pre-notions. It can help bring you and your parents on the same page, which is essential whether you make the decision to join your dad’s business or not.
Abhishek Sareen is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant and currently works in international business. He has set up businesses like Track & Trail, BrooksBicycles.com and created consumer brands like Montra, Machcity and Roadeo. He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events like MTB Himalaya. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.