The Value of a Family Run Business

After spending most of my career working for family owned and operated businesses, I had the opportunity to be part of something bigger. The family run business that I grown with for more than 20 years merged with another business. Former owner operators filled seats on the board of directors and relinquished active daily management of the business. Suddenly, I had gone from working for a family run company to a very large privately held firm. Much had changed and it felt very different.

The first year of operations had all the challenges you would expect when merging fairly large entities. The second year became what I will call the "new normal" and allowed me to reflect on what was new and what had been lost.

New is a bigger, stronger and more efficient entity that will continue to grow through additional mergers and acquisitions, or be sold to anther larger competitor. Lost forever is the personal connections with the owners, their families, and other employees. Depending on your point of view, the new may be good and the lost bad. Mostly though, I believe it is just "what is".

The value of the family run business is connection and opportunity. Connection to its employees and the community is where opportunities are created. If you personally know the owner and or the CEO, you feel more connected and will naturally want to contribute more. In smaller organizations, your contributions are more likely to be recognized which will lead to more opportunities.

Reflecting back on the opportunities of the smaller organization, one of particular importance shows up for me. It is the opportunity to learn and grow in many different areas of management. For instance, a smaller organization may not have a fully developed human resources department. If you are a manager in this environment, you will undoubtably develop valuable and transferable skills in the HR area. The larger firm will likely have fully developed HR, IT, and customer service areas. A manager in this environment will rely on them to help solve problems and therefore his or her personal growth will be limited to the area they serve.

If you are seeking a mid to upper level management position, consider the unique growth opportunities found a family run business.