Managing in a Family Business

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Family owned and managed companies are responsible for the majority of economic output and pay cheques in Canada and around the world.

For family members working or managing in a family business environment, there are some special challenges and opportunities.

What are the things family members need to be aware of in their leadership role?

The biggest thing to address is having an attitude of entitlement. Family members can sometimes be given a position of authority because they are in the lucky sperm club. So its important to act with humility and earn your way in the organization. Other non-family employees will anticipate that family members will be first in line for promotion so there is no need to flaunt it. Treat people with respect and you will gain their loyalty.

What about non-family members who want to get into management at a family-owned company?

There are almost always opportunities for non-family members to rise into leadership roles – even at the most senior level. It usually requires a slightly different skill set than in a non-family company. The key difference is being sensitive to the family dynamic and how it impacts decision making. It is wishful thinking to think that family issues and business decisions will be kept totally separate, even if that is the goal. It’s like the politics that you might find in any other organization – just with family bonds and baggage attached.

Is there any organization to help people in family business?

Yes, the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise has a thriving chapter in Southwestern Ontario. I am a member myself. For more information visit my website at