Your Guide To Joining Your Family Business

Jun 16, 2022, 23:51 IST


Joining your family business comes with its share of pros and cons. Here’s how you can make the right decision for yourself and the business. By Kalwyna Rathod

Home to the third-largest number of family businesses globally, India has 111 publicly-traded family-run companies valued at USD 839 billion. Family businesses play a crucial role in our economy, contributing to employment generation and the country’s growth and stability. As per statistics, family businesses in the country account for a large chunk of the national GDP – a whopping 79%! According to a 2020 report by Edelman, 67% of respondents said they trusted family-run businesses more than others.
If you’re looking to start or join your family business, it’s definitely not a bad idea, seeing that goodwill was a key factor for businesses to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, joining your family business should be given as much thought as when you’d consider applying for a job elsewhere. Is it the right fit for you? What will your role be? What about work-life balance? How’s the work culture? Taking the right decision will benefit you in the long run, and, of course, it will also work for your family’s business.
Image: Shutterstock
Ask yourself these questions…
What’s Your Reason?
Why are you considering joining your family business? Is it because of family pressure, or just because that’s what everyone does in the family? Are you looking for an easy career option assuming you’ll be handed everything on a silver platter? If the answer to one or all of these is ‘yes’, you need a better reason to join your family business. If you’re really looking to succeed in life, you need passion and vision, and the dedication to work hard. So, unless your life, career goals or hobbies align with what you will be required to do in your family business, it might
not be a good fit for you.
Ahmedabad-based Siddharth Shah, Director, Siroopsons Security Services, is a third-generation entrepreneur working with his family business for 12 years. Speaking of his personal experience, he says, “Joining the family business is not a decision that should be taken lightly. I also had to take into account our legacy of 47 years. Following in my father’s footsteps was a bit tricky and a challenge in itself, so, before joining the business, I asked myself a series of questions – why am I doing this? Does it fulfil my personal goals? Will I be successful in taking the legacy forward? If your answers to all such questions are satisfactory and you feel you must proceed, don’t stop yourself!”
How Serious Are You?
If you want a summer internship or the fresher experience, by all means take up the offer to join your family business. But remember to treat it as a real job. Don’t laze around or take things for granted. Even if your family mollycoddles you and is happy to just have you sit at a desk or tag along for client meetings, appreciate, value and respect the opportunity you have. Dress for the job, ask questions related to work, take an active interest in whatever is going on, share your views where appropriate, and make learning your priority.
What Do You Bring To The Table?
Having the opportunity to join your family business means getting a clear shot at a top spot in the firm (in time), financial stability and security, and the chance to build on your family’s legacy. The rewards are many, but do you want to get them all just because you were born into your family or because you’re good at what you do? Be it your own family members or other staff, you don’t want anyone thinking you don’t deserve the opportunity you have. So, make sure you’re equipped to take on your role. You might not have the qualifications for the job, but you can certainly make up for that lack with enthusiasm, sincerity and hard work. Think of ways to make a real contribution through your skills, talent and knowledge.
Siddharth reminisces about the early days, saying, “I joined my family business at the young age of 21, while I was pursuing a post graduate MBA.
I was always told by my father that great leaders don’t set out to be leaders; they set out to make a difference. It was never about my role, but always about the goals. I slowly started developing the skills needed for the job.” He started with the basics, doing field work. Since the business involves providing security guards, he had to make a connection with all the stakeholders to build a strong network. “I’m thankful to my father; because of his constant love and support, we have achieved new heights in our business,” he adds.
Image: Shutterstock
What Are You Getting Into?
If you don’t have details of your responsibilities or criteria for your advancement in the future, you might need to rethink joining the family business. It’s best if both you and your boss have clear and well-communicated expectations, whether related to timings, work hours, leaves, the amount and type of work, the compensation, etc.
It’s also crucial to consider family dynamics. Ask yourself if you’ll be okay working side-by-side with that uncle with whom you can’t spend more than a minute at family reunions, find out if people in the firm communicate openly, if everyone is mostly on the same page, and the likes.
What If It Doesn’t Work Out?
If things don’t feel like they’re going great, be confident in knowing that you have the freedom to do whatever it is you want to in the future. Perhaps you can get some real-world work experience; outside perspectives and experiences can help you progress in your life, and, if you feel like rejoining your family business, you will be able to add more value.
You could also consider doing something on your own while working part-time with your family business. Follow in the footsteps of your elders, but don’t fall into the trap of dependence.
Speaking about the easiest and most difficult things for him when he started working in his family business, Siddharth shares, “One of the best things was that I was not at the receiving end of orders (laughs)! Jokes apart, I had the privilege to carry this business forward and I was committed to it. The most difficult thing was that I used to be nervous while dealing with clients and fumble with client presentations, but I learned it all along the way!”
Is Your Family Business Facing Challenges? If you’re trying to revive your family business or struggling to run it, anticipate and work around these potential challenges
- Family disputes:
Resolve disputes within the family as soon and as smoothly as possible because emotional or financial problems among members can affect the business.
- Hiring:
Don’t give in to requests and the pressure to hire family members if they aren’t skilled or qualified.
- The work culture:
Having a laid-back approach might work, but an informal structure and culture can mean or lead to absence of a defined strategy, policies, and goals.
- The need for objectivity:
Family members in the business might not agree on all decisions but, due to having the same upbringing and shared life experiences, they might have a uniform view of the business. For a business to survive, an external view of the company and the competition is a must.
- Planning for the future:
Plan ahead for business succession; in many family-owned businesses, selecting new leadership is often shrouded by heated debates and family politics. Have an exit strategy planned for when the owner might want to sell the business or transfer its responsibilities.