General Conditions — Family must meet the same high standards for employment as non-family employees. You must come to the business with a portfolio of successful experience elsewhere. Embedded in this requirement is the concept of individuation — that process of becoming uniquely yourself. It is a life-long process. In your family you are told you are handsome, beautiful, intelligent, competent…and that may all be true.

Working outside the family business you have a chance to get honest, untainted feedback on your competence and thus, learn how you stack up against others in this world, to find out if what the family told you is fact or fiction.

In the family business, it is hard to get honest feedback. Often it is either inordinately kind, inordinately harsh or it is non-existent. Feedback is very important to one’s development. The feedback helps you understand who you are and what you have to contribute. If you cannot demonstrate you are a valuable employee for someone else, then it is not likely that you will be an effective employee in the family enterprise.

Employment of a family member who is less than competent is a huge mistake. It is far better to deny entrance of a less than competent family member into the business, then help them find a suitable job elsewhere. If this rule is not in place, sooner or later the less competent person will become a problem that reverberates throughout the business and the family. When you reach that point, you have an unhappy employee who happens to be a family member. That situation carries the potential of growing ugly quickly.

Consider the informal communication network in a family. It is common in some families that Dad makes the big business decisions while Mom represents the informal decision process. If you are in such a family and really want something or are advocating for a particular cause, you lobby Mom. You do your best to get her on your side. If you are a family member with marginal skills and ability, and you successfully lobby Mom to advocate for you with Dad, then you have upset the entire decision-making structure in the business.

So where did you go wrong? It was a mistake to lower the bar for entry into the business. Demonstrated competence must be the criteria for employment in your family business. This applies to family and non-family hires. Convey this message to family members from an early age and there will immediately be an informal sorting process. The family owned business must not become the substitute vehicle for a loving, healthy relationships between and among family members.