Working With Family – Is It A Good Idea?

March 11, 2014

Is working with family members a good idea or not? Is it just blatant nepotism or economic necessity?

Any parent will always want the very best for their children and will provide any help that they can give them in gaining employment. I have worked with clients in many large corporate clients who are proud to tell me that their children are employed in the same business, and that they helped them get their roles. In my experience it works better when they are not in the same department and obviously not a direct manager or supervisor. That’s not to say it doesn’t work.

I have a particular SME client in Birmingham where ‘The Board’ includes the son and daughter of the previous owner (since retired) and the management team includes a son and daughter of the one director and the daughter of the other! However the Managing Director is not ‘family’ but the managers all report directly to him. This interesting ‘dynamic’ does cause him a great deal of sleepless nights but does mean the ‘children’ do not report direct to their parents.

In small and micro businesses (including many tradesmen) it is often expected that the ‘son’ or ‘sons’ of the owner will join the family firm. I loved it when back in the 80’s when it became more widespread to see “& daughter” above small shop frontages and on sign written vans.

Sadly I think the tradition of following your father’s footsteps is in decline. The internet revolution opened up access to more information and options for young people and their motivations and goals have generally changed. Having said that the Modern Apprenticeship Schemes do allow businesses to employ their own children.

The other thing that has changed is the number of young people from traditional working class backgrounds having the chance and opting to go to university. I’m all in favour of any option providing the individual is happy and motivated by their choice, rather than being coerced into it.

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer to working with family members. It all comes down to how effective the relationship and communication is between the parent and child concerned. The ability to separate home and work life can also be an issue. Where I have seen parent and children working very well together (regardless of the size of the business) is where the parent manager is a great leader in general, not just with their child.

What do you think? Do you work with your child/children? Would it be a disaster?

Many thanks

Stuart Allen

Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training

(Image by stockimages at

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