One of the biggest days of my life was when I resigned my position as the Vice President of our 250-employee family business.
It took years to reach that decision. Hopefully reading this article will accelerate the process in your decision-making. You can lose a lot of sleep and generate a lot of stomach acid when it takes you years to contemplate a decision. Let’s try to speed up the process for you.
Many of the family members I work with who are employed at the family business, talk about how frustrated they are. However, very few of them ever seriously contemplate leaving the family business.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Are you crystal clear about what’s bothering you?
- Do you have a realistic view of “will it ever change”?
- Have you considered the personal consequences of staying?
- Have you seriously considered what your alternative career choices might be?
- Have you spoken honestly and directly with the people you’re working with?
Are you crystal clear about what’s bothering you?
In my case I was. My uncle was a bit of a micromanager and I was desperately wanting more autonomy and decision-making authority. For me it was important to be able to express my creativity and try new things.
For him, executing new ideas was extremely stressful. He was not super comfortable trying new things.
Do you have a realistic view of “will it ever change”?
I was 35 and he was 55 and I became very clear with the fact that he was probably going to work another 15 years. So the conclusion I drew was he was not going to change.
Have you considered the personal consequences of staying?
For me, I felt that if I stayed for the next 15 years from the time I was 35 till the time I was 50, I would be giving away some of the most important years of my career. I imagined myself at 50 years old regretting the fact that I had never had the guts to venture out on my own. I decided it would be too high of a personal cost to stay.
Have you seriously considered what your alternative career choices might be?
This is where I got extremely lucky. I was introduced to a young and promising field called Executive Coaching. I knew in my heart I would love being a coach because I was a coaching leader before there was such a term for that in business.
So the alternative career choice of being an Executive Coach provided me the motivation and inspiration to step out of the family business.
If you don’t have a Plan B that is inspirational or gives you enough potential payoff, you might seriously consider sitting tight. Or you may hire a coach to do some career exploration. They can help you see if there are other things that you could do that you might truly enjoy and make a good living. I wouldn’t recommend leaving your family business if you don’t have a solid plan B.
Have you spoken honestly and directly to the people you work with?
I did speak honestly and directly to my uncle and he understood my view and was unwilling to make changes.
One of my goals and one of the goals I want for you, is to leave the business in a way that does minimal harm to the business and to your family relationship.
In order to do that you should have honest dialogue with your family and let them know what you’re considering. This will give them time to consider their own options and adjustments.
So the bottom line is, you most certainly can and should consider quitting the family business if you are truly unhappy. The most important thing is to take your time and be deliberate and thorough in your process. Also, be mindful of the impact it will have on you, your family and the business.
As it turned out, quitting the family business was a great move for me and opened the door for the family to sell the business 10 years later.
Working for a family business is a noble dream and it works out for many people. For others there are situations and circumstances that make leaving the family business a better choice for them personally and for the family at large.
The last thing you want to do is make a hasty decision. If you are considering leaving the family business and want support to sort through your decision making process, please reach out to me. Alternatively, if you think someone else in your family business is contemplating or should be contemplating leaving the business, consider letting someone like me be a resource to help all of you explore those options.
Life’s too short to be unhappy in a family business. Long-term stress can be fatal to you and the business.
Exploring, entering or leaving the family business is one of the exercises in my Family Business Playbook.
Pete Walsh is a demanding, courageous and playful Master Coach in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the founder of Peak Workout Business Coaching and the Family Business Performance Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.