Family businesses are unique — shaped and driven by the different personalities, values, knowledge and relationships of involved family members. The interests of different family members versus the interests of the business create a dynamic that requires both understanding and ongoing communication.
There’s no business like family business
Family businesses are generally structured and run in one of these ways:
- Owned and operated by one individual, such as the founder. Other family members may be employed by the company.
- Owned by multiple family members, but operated by only select family members. Inactive shareholders delegate decision-making authority to others for the family's collective interest.
- Owned by multiple family members who may or may not be involved in the management of the business. Often in long-established businesses, outside management teams may run the company with family members/shareholders serving on the board of directors.
Each family member employed by the company may have personal expectations that can impact the business and its management. Your role within the family may set reconceptions or expectations for your role within the business, and vice versa. It’s important to discuss and clarify these expectations explicitly.
Before you take the plunge into your family business, consider this:
- Are you passionate about this and is it one of your top career choices?
- Will it help you achieve personal, professional and financial goals?
- Can you commit the time needed to see if it works for you — even if it's five years or more?
- Would you start at the bottom and work your way up? Or do you expect to start at the top?
- Are you concerned about how your involvement may affect your family relationships?
How do you operate?
Just like your family, every business operates differently. It's important that you understand the legal structure of your family's business. Different structures have different tax implications and can impact your ability to borrow money, attract investors or handle legal situations.
Being successful tomorrow starts with asking 10 important questions today.
- What is the business outlook for the company?
- Will it be viable as an independent company for many years to come?
- Is there a plan to sell the company or take it public?
- Who is running the company today?
- What's the management succession plan?
- If your parents or grandparents own the majority of the company, is there a plan in place on how the company will be transferred to the next generation and how taxes owed due to the transfer will be funded and paid?
- Is specialized knowledge required to run the company? Do I have the knowledge or can I acquire it?
- If only a few family members are involved in the company, what rights do the other family members have with respect to decisions affecting the business?
- Am I prepared to work closely with other family members on a daily basis?
- Are there areas of the business that hold special appeal for me, such as sales, financial management or manufacturing?