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Mention family business to prospective employees, and you might get pretty strong reactions.
Some might tell you they “love working for a family business,” while others may grimace at horror stories they’ve heard.
Getting and keeping good employees is critical to the success of your family business. Don’t let an inaccurate stereotype keep you from attracting the best in your community.
Like it or not, family businesses do carry a certain connotation in the marketplace. To attract top employees, you have to address concerns and promote the positive aspects of a family business work environment.
Knowing your company’s strengths and understanding what employees like about a family business are the first steps in recognizing the concerns prospective employees may feel.
How does your company stack up in these areas?
1. “Unqualified family members become managers.” Family members often are given roles they may not be qualified for. This could be because the owner wants a family member to keep tabs on each department, or because the owner wants the family member to grow into executive roles. The family may understand the reasons, but employees may not. It is difficult for employees to feel good about following directions from someone who doesn’t know much about the job.
2. “If you’re not family, you can’t get promoted.” This is a serious problem, especially if condition No. 1 is also present. In a well-run business, qualifications really count. If employees work hard to produce, learn and grow, they will want a fair shot at promotions.
If that’s not the way it works in your company, expect some disenchantment. Your workplace will be more attractive if employee performance is rewarded regardless of whether the individual is part of the family.
3. “There’s too much bickering between family members.” Family members can talk to each other in ways other people can’t. While the family tie isn’t broken at the company door, the familiar banter should be. Every member of the team, whether related or not, should be treated with respect and spoken to as a team member, not as a junior family member or a misbehaving son or daughter.
Changing the relationship dynamic upon entering the workplace is a challenge. But, if you want your family business to appeal to nonfamily employees, the change is essential.
Once you’ve addressed the common concerns, play up the positives associated with a family business.
Positives of working for a family business
Some employees enjoy feeling like part of the family
Family businesses often have a warm, caring atmosphere. The founders may have started the business because they wanted a place for their family (including employees they’ve “adopted”) to thrive.
They understand the importance of family, so they may be more considerate of situations such as flexible schedules and working from home when children are sick.
If that’s the case in your business, play it up. Many employees like the idea of being part of a close-knit group.
Working for a smaller company appeals to some people
In big corporations, employees rarely see the “big boss.” They have no real connection to the person who runs the company.
In a family business, the opposite is true. Employees often have a daily connection to the owner. They have the opportunity to hear about what is important to the owner, how the company is doing and what lies ahead. There is comfort in that closeness to the source.
In this day of huge corporate layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, employees often fear what will happen in the future. While family businesses are not immune from these events, many employees feel that they have a better chance of avoiding the corporate takeover by working for a smaller, family-owned business.
If your company has a good track record of continuing employment and minimal disruption, play it up in the recruiting process. Of course, anything can happen and you don’t want to mislead, but a good track record is worth touting.
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