Joining Mom and Pop Good or Bad Business?

Dear Debra: I just finished my M.B.A. I’m seriously considering joining my parents’ business. Advice? –Mixed feelings at 26 

Let’s start with cons to consider:

1. People will never take you as seriously as if you were “self-made”.  Example: Donald Trump’s father was a wealthy NYC real estate developer. Young Donald Trump joined Dad’s business. Daddy Trump built a $400 million fortune and left most of it to his children. Since the bulk of Donald Trump’s wealth came from dear old dad, some have scoffed, “Hey, leave me millions plus an established business and, I could do that, too.” People have strong resentment for those who start out with money. These chip-on-the-shoulder sentiments aren’t necessarily true—adult children can squander an inheritance or blow the opportunity to keep the family business strong because they may not have the smarts, talent, ambition, or motivation. Still, brace yourself for nasty comments.

2. You risk never feeling like your own person. You may have a sneaking suspicion that you wouldn’t have made it had you not piggy-backed on your parents’ success. Ask yourself: Do you have a strong enough self-image to shine on naysayers and to tell yourself, “Hey, this is a great opportunity, I’m talented and ambitious and I really want this.”

3. It’s difficult to “just be a family” because now Mom and Pop are also your bosses. Sometimes you have to make decisions that are best for business, but insult your folks. Say you determine that Dad is lousy at accounting, but he doesn’t want to let go. Or fast forward and you have to fire your dad or mom—“Dad/Mom—you’re old, you’re tired, you’re only working 10 hours a week, so you’ve got to pass the mantle.” But they don’t want to go, so it causes a family rift. 

4. What if it turns out that you’re not the right person for the job and your parents have to say, “Son, we love you, but you’re not working out, so we have to fire you.” It makes it hard to go over to their house for a warm, fuzzy dinner after they’ve kicked you out of the family business.

5. Say in five or ten years you decide, “I want to switch careers.” Your parents may feel you’ve abandoned the family business let them down.

Next week, we’ll talk pros.

« The Day My Son Almost Died | Main | Get More Power From Powerful Advice »

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I've been waiting three weeks for you to post the pros of "Joining Mom and Pop Good or Bad Business?". I read your column in the NY Metro (or was it AMNY?) but wanted to have a reference online to this article too. So far I can only see the cons list on this site?

Eileen: I wanted to make sure you saw the link for Part 2 of Joining Mom & Pop Good Or Bad Business?

Eileen: I wanted to make sure you saw the link for Part 2 of Joining Mom & Pop Good Or Bad Business?

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