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Overcoming Common Challenges of Joining or Operating a Family Business

Starting your own business from scratch can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and financially risky. This is why many people choose to join family businesses as their heirs or become family business owners themselves.

However, joining or running a family business is not without its challenges. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common challenges that individuals may face when joining or operating a family business.

In particular, we will explore the sense of entitlement, feeling trapped into a family business, work-life balance challenges, operating a stagnant family business, unclear financial expectations, blind trust, and the lack of a succession plan. Challenges of Joining a Family Business:

Feeling Entitled to the Family Business:

Perhaps the most common challenge that individuals face when joining a family business is a sense of entitlement.

They may feel that they are automatically entitled to a position within the company simply because they are family members. However, such an attitude may lead to resentment, frustration, and a lack of credibility among other employees.

To counteract this issue, family members who join the business need to earn their positions through hard work, skill, and dedication. They should undergo the same training and development programs as other employees, and should not expect special treatment.

Feeling Trapped into the Family Business:

Another issue that individuals may face when joining a family business is the feeling of being trapped. They may feel that they have limited advancement opportunities or feel obligated to continue operating the business simply because it has been a long-standing family tradition.

To overcome this challenge, it is important to have open discussions with family members about the company’s future and succession planning. This helps to ensure that there are alternative successors in place, and that individuals are not forced into a role they do not wish to fulfill.

Trouble Separating Business and Life:

Work-life balance is another significant issue that individuals face when operating a family business. It can be challenging to maintain healthy boundaries between family life and business responsibilities, especially when family members occupy multiple roles within the company.

To counteract this problem, individuals should establish clear boundaries and communicate them regularly. For example, they may choose to have office hours and set aside specific times for business discussions.

They may also consider hiring outside consultants or business partners to help take on some responsibilities and alleviate some of the burden. Operating a Stagnant Family Business:

Your Family Business Is Stuck in the Past:

Another challenge that family businesses may face is operating in stagnation.

They may stick to outdated practices and fail to embrace modern technology and innovation. This may cause the business to fall behind its competitors and lose market share.

To avoid this issue, family businesses should remain open to change and embrace new technologies and practices. They should also consider hiring outside experts who can bring fresh perspectives to the business and help implement new strategies.

Unclear Financial Expectations:

Another challenge that family businesses may face is having unclear financial expectations. Family members may not necessarily have the same compensation or equity distribution arrangements, creating tensions between family members and causing issues regarding succession planning.

To avoid this issue, it is important to set clear financial expectations for all family members and ensure everyone is compensated appropriately. Families should also create benefit agreements and updates them regularly to maintain transparency and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Blind Trust:

Blind trust can also pose a significant issue for family businesses. Family members may assume that everyone has the business’s best interests at heart and may skip over proper procedures and checks and balances.

However, such blind trust can enable bad practices and financial insufficiencies that can eventually result in the business’s downfall. To counteract this challenge, family businesses should establish proper procedures and checks and balances to ensure transparency and prevent any fraudulent activity.

Lack of a Succession Plan:

Lastly, a lack of a proper succession plan can pose a significant challenge for family businesses. Without such planning, it can be difficult to ensure the continuity of the business or manage estate taxes.

To address this challenge, families should have a clear governance system in place, including family charters and board of advisors. They should also create a strategic plan that outlines the company’s future goals and identifies potential successors well in advance.


Joining or operating a family business can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it also comes with its unique set of challenges. These include a sense of entitlement, feeling trapped into the business, work-life balance challenges, operating in stagnation, unclear financial arrangements, blind trust, and a lack of a proper succession plan.

By being aware of these challenges and taking the necessary steps to address them, families can work together to ensure the long-term success of their businesses. In conclusion, joining and operating a family business can be advantageous but also present unique challenges.

The sense of entitlement, feeling trapped, and work-life balance are common issues that arise. As family businesses may fall behind in innovation, it is imperative to maintain clear financial agreements, establish proper checks and balances, and ensure proper succession planning.

Family businesses must maintain transparency and clarity to ensure their long-term success. By addressing these challenges and cultivating a harmonious and transparent business relationship, family businesses can continue to thrive both personally and professionally.

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