Working With Family

Brand for the Hilton (Hilton Family)

Brand for the Hilton (Hilton Family)

Ford (Ford Family)

Ford (Ford Family)

The infamous WalMart (Walton Family)

The infamous WalMart (Walton Family)

Having the gift curse or working with family is something that many of us have had the opportunity or expectancy to handle.

There are families whose businesses have built big international business like that the Hiltons, the Ford family and the Walton Family (Wal-Mart).  There are also the small family businesses.  Like restaurants — Sweetie’s Pie from St. Louis or Ruthies here in New York or Junior’s (you know the place with the cheesecake).

Not all experiences are good ones.  Different things can occur in family businesses because you are family.


  1. UNDERSTANDING.  When you work with your family, you know that the know you.  They understand your personality and the way that you work and think.  You can count on them in and outside the office.
  2. OPEN AVAILABILITY.  Being able to work with family makes it easy to get your hours for work and still handle your business that you need to outside.  If you have to have a doctors appointment, you’re in school or you are working on something new.  There really is no lost of time — you have the possibility to just switch days with someone else.
  3. STABILITY.  In businesses; particularly family businesses the possibility to grow into leadership positions is endless.  Yes, you have to prove that you can do the work.  But you have that openness to do something great.  One day you could be running the business and keeping the future of the family strong.  Especially, if you are from somewhere that had hardship.


  1. UNDERSTANDING.  You are not the twelve year old kid you once were.  When you work with older family members they think they know or understand you.  I can be quite annoying.  There is also the understanding of your work ethics.  If those around you know that you are a hard worker, you will stay late or come in early.  They may take advantage of you.  They will leave extra work for you to do, because they know that you will do it to know that the job is done.
  2. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.  There are times where the family business is not what you want to do for a living.  It was just something you had to do because you were in the house.  Yet, there is this expectancy that since it is family you are going to stay.  Then you feel like you cannot continue on the path of what matters to you — you have an obligation to your family.
  3. FAMILY ISSUES.  This family business was someone else idea first.  Not yours.  Though things may change over generations, some people strive for the original dream without combining it to the advantages available to them today.  Though in some industries that can be charming.  There are some where it may be damaging.  These issues can tear down the business.  There are also the personal issues within the family.  Working together, you end up bringing the personal business to work.  Though, it is not something that you should do, it is hard not to do because of the underlying friction.  It can create a divide either by choosing sides, or for those who choose to stay out of the problems.  It is hard to get away from it all because you live and work with one another.  Even if you no longer live together, the issues that are at hand are there everyday.

These things that I have mentioned as good and bad in working in a family business can be seen in all organizations.  They have to figure out how to make it work.  Some don’t.  The one thing that should be considered in family businesses is that it is still a business and should be treated as such.


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