My family has a small factory, with 14 employees. My parents always say they want to grow the business and generate more jobs for the community, make the economy grow. But I realized that they were just saying that and doing nothing to actually make it happen. So I started reading about business growth and eventually on leadership.

Things got a bit, huh... weird when I talked with my parents. For example: I told my mother that we, as the owners, having better desks and bigger, more comfortable chairs was probably sowing some uncomfortable feelings on the employees. She just replayed with "of course we have better things, we are the owners".

My father was the same: I told him we should trust our employees more and delegate some of the important decisions to them, and teach them how to make those decisions. He told me the only people he trusts in the company are my mother and I. He said he will never teach the important parts of the business to anyone else because if they learn enough, they might just leave the company and become our competitors, robbing our clients.

I even read Dale Carnegie and tried his approach, but it doesn't seem to work on them.

I can't convince them no matter what I try.

I just don't get it, if they are so right, why does it feel so wrong?

EDIT: What I want help with is, how should I address this issue? Or should I just keep it this way?

EDIT 2: Just to make sure people don't misunderstand, there is no secret sauce. What happens is that my parents keep it all centralized on themselves, any and all decisions must go through them, no one can have any iniciative because they must get permission to do anything. So when I said 'important decisions' I didn't mean important for the company, but for the employees' job.

  • This question needs a bit of an edit. I am not sure exactly what, but in its current state it will probably be closed as needing a goal we can address. I think there is a good question in there, but it needs to be re-worded – SaggingRufus Aug 31 '18 at 12:33
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    What is your actual (answerable, practical) question? What is your goal, i.e. what outcome are you looking for? Or are you after a general discussion on the concepts of management? (Which would be off-topic here.) – Lilienthal Aug 31 '18 at 12:42
  • Is the question here "why does the way parents run this company feel wrong" or "How do I approach my bosses (who are my parents) with a new strategy for running the company" these are two very different questions, one is on topic and the other is off topic – SaggingRufus Aug 31 '18 at 12:42

Why does it feel so wrong? Because your folks are probably being paranoid, selfish, and short-sighted.

First, having nicer furniture is not the problem (unless the employees have non-functional, or even hazardous, work areas).

And, making every decision isn’t necessarily the problem, either, unless all ideas are immediately shot down without being considered just because they didn’t come from an owner.


It's not like the employees don't already notice how the business works and could probably replicate it given enough incentive to do so. Based on your description of things, the owners of the business are missing a huge opportunity to earn their employees' loyalty by sharing responsibility for the success of the business with them. Empowerment and loyalty from the owners goes a long way toward earning loyalty back from the people who actually keep your family's business successful.

Without that loyalty, there is more chance that a smart and observant employee will take off and compete against your company anyway. Earning their loyalty is is the best defense against that.

The competition will inevitably come, whether it’s from former employees or from some other company that wants in on your success. Imagine how sad it would be for an employee of yours to start their own version of your business. That would mean they care enough about the product to take their own risks to try to do it better. You could have had that energy applied to your own business.

As an owner, you might convince your other owners to try an experiment. Bring one trusted worker into a more "inner circle" and allow him or her to have more say in how to get the work done. See if it leads to increased production, or lower costs, or both. Give it adequate time for the changes to be made and to work the kinks out.

It should produce some kind of tangible benefit that can be shown to your folks to prove that other people can be trusted to help them run their business.

But also keep up the verbal tactic of informing your folks of your research findings about best practices for developing a business where people like to work and may stay for a long time. Then do what you can in your realm of responsibility to make things better.

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  • I agree with you, so I upvoted your answer, but I don't have enough points or something :s – Ric Gnv Aug 31 '18 at 12:48
  • Thank you, Kent. I'll try it out. Indeed, I agree that the best way to prove something is to show them actual results. – Ric Gnv Aug 31 '18 at 13:19
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    Making all the decisions means that the business is limited by the ability of the couple to make decisions. As a business grows, the number of required decisions grows also. To grow, the couple needs to delegate. – David Thornley Aug 31 '18 at 15:32

I just don't get it, if they are so right, why does it feel so wrong?

Well, to a point your parents are correct. If you teach someone the in's and out's of what makes your business tick, you can potentially be creating your own competition. This is in some cases, like a family owned business, wise.

As far as the perks if you will, you seem to have a point. If I am sitting in a crappy wooden chair with the boss is sitting in a posh comfy chair eventually I am going to notice and may even harbor some resentment. The gap in equipment quality should not be so obvious, based on my experience but there is the reality of cost.

But in your case the situation, based on my experience, is a combination of a generation gap, and a case of differential treatment.

Short answer: You have some interesting points, but not much else you can do until new management (you) take over. Either way, when your time comes focus on changes to your companies culture that help build employee loyalty. Most of the time, employees leave because they feel under appreciated and there are many steps you can take to address this that do not cost much or anything.

Finally, a resource that may or may not help but is a good read and relevant to this topic: Put Employees First

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    Also there is a cost to everything. Can the company really afford new desk equipment for everyone? Do they need it? IMO the business owner should be able to have nicer things than their employees, so long as the employee have sufficient equipment. So if they have an adequate desk chair, but the owners is nicer, there is nothing wrong with that and shouldn't cause resentment IMO – SaggingRufus Aug 31 '18 at 12:29
  • Indeed that would be the case. But there is no secret sauce at all. I just updated at the end to explain it a bit better. – Ric Gnv Aug 31 '18 at 12:49
  • I upvoted your answer because the link at the end is really interesting, although I haven't finished reading yet. – Ric Gnv Aug 31 '18 at 12:51

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