I’m an Employee in a Family Business and the Owner is My Father (Part 1)

family business

By Christian Alary / Unison Workplace Strategies

This is my first blog post on this topic. I will most likely, informally, document my journey through this blog. Even before I started this journey there were challenges, my perception and other people’s perception, I wasn’t even there yet and I was worried how this could look.

I graduated from university a few years ago, worked for my father for approximately seven months, and then left to go work for another business with the goal of gaining experience in the manufacturing industry. The plan was always for me to return in a few years and now, after three years, I’m back working for my father again. I was asked to share my experience as a new employee in a family business.

First, I think it’s important to understand the context. Unison is a consulting SME that focuses on organizational health. There are currently five employees, including me. I should also clarify that this is only my personal opinion on this situation.

Coming into this experience, I had a few preconceived ideas and assumptions just like everyone else might have in my position, for example, that I might have to work harder or outperform myself to prove that I belong here and that I’m not just here because I’m the owner’s son.

I thought that clients would see me as the owner’s son and not take me as seriously as the other employees, or that my colleagues would treat me differently, whether by being more demanding or less demanding of me, for whatever reason.

Again, this is my perception of things. I’m not saying that any of this is actually taking place; these were just my initial thoughts.

I’m also aware that my colleagues might have their own concerns. I asked them to share their point of view during our annual meeting and they didn’t seem apprehensive.

I guess I’m also aware they might not be comfortable sharing all their thoughts during our first annual meeting together and yet, again, maybe they truly don’t have any concerns. I’m sure they will read this and let me know.

So what can we do in a situation like this one? Communicate and clarify our intent to the team and work hard to prove it.

I started work one month ago or so, which means that not much has happened yet. There will be more meat on the bone further into this journey. For now, things are going great.

Since we’re a small team, we interact daily with everyone. In a situation like this, communication and transparency are key. It would be hard for an employee to have a vague point of view on this situation, which could happen in a bigger business where the family employee doesn’t frequently interact with the other employees.

I’m asked to contribute the same as everyone and I’m not given any special permission or asked to do extra work in the role that I currently hold.

Ultimately, I understand that this journey will come with its ups and downs, its advantages and disadvantages, its opportunities and its challenges. I was aware of this when I made my decision three and a half years ago. My goal with this blog is to share my experience working in a family business. Part 1 was simply an introduction to the situation. I will share more tangible situations, experiences and how I’m dealing with them, and my hope is that others in similar situations will do the same.