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The Pros And Cons Of Working In Your Family’s Business

Dave Howell speaks to three people who’ve joined their family’s business to see how the experience has benefited them The Pros And Cons Of Working In Your Family’s Business

Family businesses have been in existence for centuries. Indeed, research by business consultancy KPMG has revealed that, according to the Family Firm Institute, family owned companies account for two thirds of all businesses worldwide and generate more than 70 per cent of annual global GDP.

KPMG’s European Family Business Trends report states that family businesses demonstrate a unique formula for success. They capitalise on unique family strengths, while actively adapting to new and ever-changing market trends.

Often, family businesses are seen as little more than small scale artisan enterprises, when the reality is very different. Some of the best known businesses and brands are family run. As one of the largest business groups, family businesses are, by extension, also one of the largest employers.

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

The Family Business Survey from professional services network PwC concluded that the strength and weakness of the family business model is right there in the name - the family. Working with your relations can generate much higher levels of trust and commitment, but it can also lead to tensions, festering resentments and open conflict, as the individuals concerned struggle to keep head and heart separate and make a success of both their work and family lives.

Anyone entering the workforce for the first time may look to their own family’s business as a source of not only employment, but also training. Making Money spoke to three people who joined their family’s business to see how it’s benefited them.

Becky Valentine is chief operating officer of property company Spenbeck, an award winning second generation family business that specialises in offering businesses space in Nottingham’s Creative Quarter.

Erki Kert of credit scoring company Big Data Scoring is originally from Estonia. His parents set up and still run the biggest accountancy firm in that country.

Lucy Jackson of Cheshire Farm Chips joined her family’s potato products business in 2012 after university

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF WORKING IN YOUR FAMILY’S BUSINESS?

Becky Valentine: one of the advantages is that there’s a wonderful shorthand - conversations are quicker and motivations more quickly understood. It adds to the sense of achievement that, as a close family, we are all working together to build something for the next generation.

Winning our recent regional award was made so much more special by being able to receive it together and proving to ourselves how well we work as a team.

On the downside, there’s a feeling of having to prove yourself to others - that you haven’t just been given a place in the company because you are family. It can also be quite suffocating if you are as close a family as we are and socialise a great deal outside of work too. It requires hard work and determination to ensue there are clear boundaries between work and family time.

Erki Kert: for a young person without any previous job experience, getting your first experience from the family business is a great opportunity to learn about the corporate world and see the business from the inside. So for me, it was mostly about getting that first experience and learning some practical skills, in addition to gaining theoretical background from school.

The biggest challenge is keeping business and family issues separate. You have to make sure this exists, otherwise it’s going to create a big mess in the end.

Lucy Jackson: I have a deep-rooted knowledge of the business, having been around it all my life. We talk as a family and therefore talk at length about the running and future of the business. We can make decisions on the future of the business with the back-up of our parents’ experience.

I don’t have any cons. Sometimes in a family business, experience of working within another company can help you realise the true value of what hard work goes into running a family business and what you sometimes have to do in order to succeed.

HOW HAS WORKING WITH YOUR PARENTS ALLOWED YOU TO GAIN BUSINESS EXPERIENCE?

Becky Valentine: from when I was young, I was exposed to the working environment, such as helping with photocopying or sorting the post. Having the opportunity to gain experience in the school holidays meant I was well equipped when applying for jobs and, being family, our employers were committed to ensuring we made the most of this.

I am now doing the same with my young children and they are surprisingly useful at helping to clear out properties.

Lucy Jackson: the upbringing I had meant I’ve been brought up with business, as it has always been around me and is something that’s now second nature. I had a lesson about VAT when I was seven. Since joining the family business officially, I have taken on more responsibilities and learnt more about business.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER YOUNG PEOPLE THINKING OF JOINING THEIR FAMILY’S BUSINESS?

Becky Valentine: communicate. Working in a family business, particularly a small one like ours, requires honesty about the wants and concerns of each family member. If it goes wrong, it’s not just the company, but also the family ties that are in jeopardy. We also feel strongly that working in other companies and industries before joining can only benefit the family business, encouraging approaches that might otherwise be ignored and making sure you aren’t stuck entirely within a bubble. Erki Kert: work hard to get all possible experience from all possible segments of business. When working in the family business, I was doing long hours there, as well as at home. When my parents were having dinner at home, I was still working.

Lucy Jackson: the advice I would give is to have 12 months working within the family business and then 12 months working for another company, because this is a big test as to you finding out if it is what you want to do.

Following this, you need to assess whether the values you have match those of the existing family members working in the business and whether you think you can move the business forward.

HOW HAS WORKING IN YOUR FAMILY BUSINESS PREPARED YOU TO EITHER START YOUR OWN ENTERPRISE OR BECOME AN EMPLOYEE FOR ANOTHER COMPANY?

Becky Valentine: it allowed me to understand the benefits of working for yourself, but also the huge sacrifices anyone in this position has to make.

Having the opportunity to gain an insight into how a company was run while at school was hugely influential in my career choices. It gave me a passion for business and made it clear that I wasn’t necessarily cut out to be an employee. Running the family business drives me to work as hard as possible to secure the company’s future, to develop all the necessary skills and take considered risks.

Erki Kert: having parents who run their own business means I’ve grown up in a hardworking and entrepreneurial environment. That has had the biggest impact. If someone has a possibility to work for a family business, then even if that’s not their ultimate career goal, use the opportunity to gain your first actual work experience as early on as possible. Having this on your CV might help later on. Lucy Jackson: the experience I have gained working in the family business has prepared me to start my own business at any time I should choose. However, my long-term intentions are to continue to grow the family business and take over full running of it in the near future. The experience I have gained so far has equipped me to do this. Read more like this

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