Family businesses have their own unique set of pros and cons. Should you accept a job in one?
There are so many factors to consider when assessing your career options, but one you can’t afford to overlook is the company culture of the businesses you’re considering working for. Here’s a look at the values that many family-owned businesses hold dear to help you make the crucial decision of where you’d like to work.
A long-term orientation
One thing that can be found close to the heart of most family-run businesses is the value of longevity over short-term profit. While these companies desire to expand and grow as much as any other, this is secondary to their aspiration to leave the business in a healthy and profitable state when it is passed down to their children.
Every major decision is seen through this lens, and you’ll benefit as a member of staff as there won’t be as much pressure on you to generate immediate returns on investment — you’ll therefore have more room to experiment in your field.
Due to this onus on sustainability, family businesses often hire with the long-term in mind. This means that if you produce good-quality work that helps the business succeed, you’ll almost certainly be rewarded with loyalty from your employers.
As the business expands and new roles and opportunities open up, the preference for stability of many family-owned businesses means they will often fill these roles internally. Many members of the Clinkards management team started their careers in a junior role at the company before working their way up to their current positions, for example.
On the other hand, it can sometimes be a bad thing to work for a family company if they ever go through tough times. If profits shrink and the workforce needs to be reduced, any possible redundancies would be made from the general workforce in the first instance'.
Keep this mind when you’re considering joining a family-run business, especially if you’re planning a career in a volatile industry that sees companies come and go all of the time.
A small workforce
Family businesses are typically quite small, which comes with its own host of advantages and disadvantages. One benefit is that a small team, especially made up of family members, is often so tight-knit that it can punch above its weight and compete with much larger companies.
When each member of staff at the company knows one another by name and generally get along, it breeds a sense of comradery, which makes coming into work a pleasure. Furthermore, hard work and dedication are more likely to be noticed in a smaller business, which makes it more likely you’ll be rewarded with raises and promotions.
Another benefit of being part of a compact and reliable team is that you’ll be given greater autonomy than you would at a larger firm, where your role is likely to be a lot more regimented and restrictive. This is perfect for self-starters, but also means the company as a whole will benefit from an adaptable workforce, which can be a big boon in an ever-changing market.
This approach leads to the discovery of new and improved ways of doing things that help the company to develop and stay up to date. One area it helped at Charles Clinkard was during the rapid rise of online shopping — having a small, flexible team allowed us to quickly adapt to the changing world of retail.
The reputation we’d built up with consumers over the generations allowed us to step straight in to the world of ecommerce with a pre-existing status, which was definitely one of the benefits of being a family-owned business. If you’re part of a forward-thinking family business yourself during times of big changes to the sector, you can be in the best position possible to take advantage of the situation.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that many family-run businesses, especially if they’re still run by people from an older generation, can be quite resistant to change. Make sure you carefully choose which business you’re committing your future to, as a family business that is resistant to new ideas can often be the worst place to be if there are significant changes to the landscape of an industry.
So, should you work for a family business? As this article has attempted to show, there are advantages and disadvantages to joining a family-run business. Just like any other company, you should do your research and ask lots of questions during the interview to make sure they’re a good fit for you.
However, when you’re considering joining a family-owned business, you should specifically try to get a feel for how forward-thinking the firm is; if you get the impression their staff are always pushing one another to find gaps in the market and innovate, then they may very well be your best bet when it comes to your career.
Tom Mankin is a digital marketer with UK shoe retailer Charles Clinkard.
Should You Work For A Family Business?