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Old 15th February 2015, 07:06 PM   #1

Join Date: Feb 2015
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Default Family Business Trouble - Go Or Stay

I am on a hunt for some different perspective on a family business issue. My father has been an entrepreneur for almost his entire life and has grown his current business for over 25 years in which time i have grown up in as well worked in for my entire life, I majored in business and came into the business after university. The business has been in terrible financial shape for quite a while, long before the recession working from check to check, not paying owners. It has been in the state that most business owners would have had either closed or made major changes a long time ago. My father is putting in at least 80 hrs per week and goes straight home afterwards, absolutely no personal life. His life is this business, all assets have been sunk into this business and he is personally liable for major business liabilities. The business is very micromanaged where employees are not able to make decisions on their own; there is no environment of responsibility, it all lands on my fathers shoulders. Considering the size of the business its a wonder that it got to this point. It could be considered a medium size business measured by its assets but by income very small. I have tried for, for a couple of years now implement some standard business principles such as a business plan, chain of responsibility, system for measures and various financial controls, but they all seem to fail due to no true buy-in from my father, employees have no will if the boss doesn't. Despite all efforts, discussions, and "I'm going to change"s, he continually seems to bury himself in the day to day management and ignore his role's responsibilities. He states he realizes the importance of these principles, but when it comes to it, that's where it is. I recently gave him two options to let me take the position, but he cant get in the way by having something a certain way, or straighten himself out. I don't think he is ready to pick the former and not able to do the latter. It seems that when discussing this issue the information is not retained and it repeats soon after. Me being in the business has always been the unwritten plan he would be devastated and I will feel extremely guilty if it came to leaving. It is very difficult to make this decision because our relationship is very good. What would you do? Business-wise it makes most sense for me to stay, but i simply don't know how to get through! Sorry for the rant..

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Old 16th February 2015, 11:26 AM   #2
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Location: Triangle area, NC, USA, North America, Earth (usually)
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I understand your feelings of guilt, but you know that your father isn't going to change. If the business isn't generating enough to pay your father and he's already working 80 hours a week, then how will it generate enough to support you? Would your father also expect you to work 80 hours a week? Even working 40 hours a week, how are you going to support yourself? Are you going to take a second job (which would have you working 80 hours a week or more, just not all of them with the family business)?

If you do decide to join the family business, will you be able to work with your father's micromanagement? He's going to be micromanaging you, too, the same as he does the other employees, you know. You have ideas for improving the business and increasing its profitability, but will he let you implement them? And if not, can you hang on long enough until he's gone so that you can put these new ideas in place yourself? Does your father even intend to retire or does he plan to work there forever? (Often when these business founders are so invested in their "baby" -- the company they started -- they refuse to retire and end up working there until the day they die, which can be many, many years past the time when they should have let go...)

In making your decision, you have to weight your potential guilt against the pain of having to go to work every day with your father breathing over your shoulder, taking on everything for himself and preventing you from doing the things that you know are best for the business (or worse, forcing you do to things that you know are bad for the company).

In the end, you have to decide what's best for you. Perhaps you could work elsewhere for awhile, so you can see how other managers handle various tough situations and gain some management experience yourself without your father micromanaging your every move... then when your father is older and (maybe) more ready to hand over the reins of the business, you can come back and step into the family business, with the freedom to implement new policies that you believe will help grow the company?

It's a tough decision. Best of luck.


Diane Aull - NineYards.com: Helping Businesses Do Business Online
Whether you think you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.
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