FPMG Announces Tips for Non-Family Members Working in a Family Business

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A recent article on CNBC.com touting the success of America’s oldest family business, cymbal manufacturer The Zildjian Company, may have some people giving a second thought to the idea of working as a non-family member at a family business. FPMG, a performance management firm, understands that situation creates both challenges and opportunities, and it’s provided some tips and food for thought for those who want to be professionally satisfied in that role.

FPMG Announces Tips for Non-Family Members Working in a Family Business

FPMG Announces Tips for Non-Family Members Working in a Family Business

Whatever type of family business you work at, the trait that will be valued over all others is loyalty. Employees who demonstrate a commitment to the business will be worth their weight in gold.

A recent article on CNBC.com celebrating the successful 390th anniversary of America’s oldest family business, cymbal manufacturer The Zidjian Company, may have some people giving a second thought to the idea of working as a non-family member at a family business. FPMG, a Florida performance management firm, understands that situation creates both challenges and opportunities, and it’s provided some tips and food for thought for those who want to be professionally satisfied in that role.

“Family businesses may be more pervasive than you think,” says Denise Federer, Ph.D., FPMG’s founder. “They represent the greatest part of wealth of in the U.S. and account for 70-80% of the global gross domestic product.”

FPMG notes that those who are interested in working in a family business need to conduct more due diligence than usual prior to the interview. They’ll be well served to familiarize themselves with the culture, specifically, which of the following three philosophies drive the business:

  •     Family First—The happiness of family members comes before everything else. Unity is favored, even if it results in negative business consequences.
  •     Business First—What’s best for the business is put ahead of everything else. Professional business practices are followed and stringent rules are in place.
  •     Family Enterprise—Striking a balance between the family- and business-first philosophies is the goal. Family satisfaction is created while the economic health of the business is supported.

In business-first family businesses and family enterprises, FPMG says the fact that someone isn’t a member of the family may be irrelevant, since advancement will typically be based on competency rather than bloodline. The fact remains, however, that it can be daunting for some people to work next to their boss’ wife, son or niece, and it may seem like they receive favorable treatment.

In family-first businesses, FPMG notes that non-family members may face more challenges, along with career limitations. They must ask themselves whether they’re okay with the fact that family members with less ability and/or experience may advance to leadership positions not because of the value they bring, but who they are.

“Whatever type of family business you work at, the trait that will be valued over all others is loyalty,” Federer says. “Employees who demonstrate a commitment to the business will be worth their weight in gold, but if you’re someone who thrives on fairness, you may be frustrated with some of the decision-making.”

FPMG cautions non-family members to know the “lay of the land” of the family business before committing themselves to roles that ultimately disappoint them. They may also want to think about the following things, which will help them become valued employees:

  •     Be highly competent at what you do.
  •     Be validated by your own sense of accomplishment; find joy in your work.
  •     Know when to take a stand and when to say nothing.
  •     Ensure your colleagues know you’re proud to be associated with the business.

“Working at a family business can be incredibly rewarding for non-family members, but you can never forget that old adage: blood is thicker than water,” Federer says.

About FPMG
FPMG is a Florida performance management consultancy dedicated to guiding successful people to be their best. Based in Tampa, we help you uncover the non-financial issues that impact the bottom line. FPMG offers consulting for family business problems, financial advisors legacy advising, leadership development, and more.

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Denise Federer, Ph.D.
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