It can be challenging coming into a family business as a new employee. Alex Bouri has worked as part of his family's business Seament for most of his life. During that time he has seen the dynamics of a growing family business and how they affected the role of new, non-family employees. Here are Alex Bouri's tips for succeeding in a family business—when you're not family:
- Take the time to understand the company culture – Every family-owned business tends to have a strong company culture all its own. As the business is closely tied to the family, some of their personality will color every part of the company culture. This can give a family business a much stronger sense of cohesion than other businesses, but it can also be harder for an outsider to get into. As a new employee, it's important to put in the time and effort to understand the company culture. By starting to share in that culture, you will, in effect, make yourself part of the family. You'll not only fit in better, you'll also find it easier to communicate with others in the business and to have your views and ideas heard. You'll also be able to understand the reasons that things work the way they do.
- Don't take part in family disputes – Ideally, family members employed in a business together draw a careful line between work issues and family disputes, but this isn't always the case. There may be complicated politics between different family members or others may simply not get along, and it can spill over into the workplace. It's important to respect and understand these differences without getting drawn into them. You are not part of the family and their disputes, if any, are not part of your job description. Plus, it's impossible to get involved in a family dispute without taking sides, which is dangerous for your career. Politely keep quiet when family members disagree with each other unless the dispute is specific to your job or role and your opinion is requested – and even then, keep your response professional.
- Let your work ethic speak for itself – It can be hard for a newcomer to find their place in a family business. Be aware, however, that to the family members who run the business, the business is everything—not just their job but the future of their children. That means they will respect and appreciate those employees who show a strong work ethic and competence. If you feel a little bit like an outsider at first, work hard and know that your efforts will not go unrecognized.
What else would you do to succeed at a family business?