Thursday, June 10, 2010

In Business with Dad?

Happy Fathers Day to my daddy and all you daddy’s reading this!   I love my dad very much and he is truly an inspiration, mentor and a best friend to me.  That being said - I am quite sure I could never go into business with him.  That is not true for many sons and daughters who are or have been in business with dad.This includes my cousin Mark who grew up in his step fathers dental practice and then decided he would pursue the same career.  After he graduated from dental school he went to work in his dads practice.  His greatest challenge was not winning the respect of his father - it was winning the respect of the others who worked in the practice who watched Mark grow up.  It took a long time for them to not view him as “the kid” but rather as the “doctor”.   Mark came into the practice as part of the businesses succession plan.  When his dad retired - Mark would take over the practice and that is in fact where things stand today.

There are many challenges and opportunities when it comes to kids going into business with dad.  These situations seem to work best when the parties bring different experience and knowledge to the business and balance each others strengths and weaknesses.  It is much more challenging when the parties are too much alike!   Respect is certainly key to success in this scenario.  It’s also very important that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.   Who will be responsible for what in the business?  Communication is critical to all of this and sometimes that can be more challenging for family members than for non-family members in business together.  Fathers and their kids may bring “family baggage” into the relationship and revert to communication styles from their childhood that are not necessarily good for business.  Therefore its really important to determine how, when, what and why you will communicate as you work together especially during times of stress.   If things do get stressful or contentious between family members in the business - it’s a good idea to bring  non-family members into the conversation to help diffuse and resolve issues and lend a bit of objectivity to the discussion.

It’s very important that expectations both short and long term are clear when it comes to being in business with dad.   For example if dad is assuming that you will be taking over and carrying on the family business at some point and you are only interested in working in the business until something better comes along - that needs to be discussed!

Being in business with dad can be a very good thing!  I have interviewed many sons and daughters in business with dad and they often tell me that they are really proud to be working with their dad and vice versa.  They get to know one another in a different way and see each others strengths and weaknesses as business people rather than just as family members.  In addition they often share the same passion for and commitment to the family business more so than a non-family member would.  It creates a bond like no other, can lead to great business success and it can be a lot of fun too!    Happy Fathers Day!

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