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Candidate Help & Advice

Working for a Family Owned Business – Pros and Cons

shutterstock_194552054Family Owned Business

Have you considered going to work for a family owned business?

These businesses have their own special qualities.

What prompted me to write about this was an e-mail I received after I posted my LinkedIn Publisher post, Are You a Perfect Fit for the Job? Then You Will Not Get It!

The author of the e-mail said she had been a perfect fit for her last job, but had to quit after one year. She wrote that her predecessor lasted only seven months. The job was crazy! The boss was crazy!

My response was, “I bet it was a family owned business!”

She said, “Wow. Yes. The owner, her husband, and son worked there.”

From my experience, there are pros and cons when it comes to working for a family owned business.


Family owned businesses tend to be smaller. If you are a generalist (versus being a specialist), this is a good thing. You will likely get to wear more hats—getting a greater variety of assignments.

A family owned business can feel like a family for the whole staff. I have known many owners who treat their employees like they are part of the family. For the right person, this can be quite comforting and create an inviting environment.


A family owned business is exactly that—family owned. Did you grow up in a dysfunctional family like I did? If the family is dysfunctional, then it is highly likely the family owned business will be dysfunctional. I have worked for a non-profit that was dysfunctional, and cannot imagine working in a dysfunctional family owned business.

Do you want to move up? Well, if you are not family, the likelihood of taking a leadership position is small. Well-run family owned businesses also tend to have very low turnover. This can make moving up within the organization difficult.

Is the business growing? Yes? Will the business grow past the capabilities of the owners to manage it, and are they willing to bring in outside talent? If you are in your 50s, you will remember a book titled the Peter Principle. The premise of the book is all of us will inevitably rise to his or her level of incompetence.

I have seen this with multiple clients who work for a family owned business. The business grows and grows, but the management team rises to their level of incompetence. The family cannot see that they need to bring in talent from outside of the family.

Family Members After the Business Fails

I have worked with multiple clients who were part of a family that ran a family owned business. They were left jobless when the business failed during the great recession. Many of them find it difficult to find jobs with traditional employers because they simply do not fit into a corporate role.

Have you worked for family owned business?

What was your experience?

Are you a good fit for a family owned business?

Marc MillerCareer Pivot

Check out my book Repurpose Your Career – A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

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