I work at a large family-owned business which has deep historical roots and traditions. I enjoy the work and the environment, but there is a very common (and I guess obvious) issue in here:

Somehow, most people in senior management are part of the family or relatives (which is obvious, due to the fact that it is a family business), and many younger family members are easily fast-tracked to higher positions.

I wonder whether despite this kind of formal nepotism there can be ways to prove oneself and advance in the ranks of a family business - despite not being part of the family?

If you have been in similar situations, please share what has helped you maintain a good visibility and progress well within a family company

  • 4
    Sure, you may be at a bit of a disadvantage in a family business, but why would you think the steps to follow are significantly different from a non-family business? – Bernhard Barker Apr 21 '14 at 8:03
  • 1
    If all else fails, marry into the family. – Joe Apr 21 '14 at 13:07
  • As someone who used to hire/fire/promote for a family business I will say in my experience family were only advantaged as being better know (which goes both ways to be honest) If you want to compete in a family run business (or a business run by friends) your best bet is follow all the conventional rules to pursuing advancement, and try and befriend the family. Johny's cars busted? Offer him a hand or a ride. Susie needs to drop off a package but has to also pick up her kids and make it to karate? offer to drop it off for her. Think of it as getting on your collective boss's good side. – RualStorge Apr 21 '14 at 15:01
  • Hey Eric, thanks for participating on our site! As it stands, this is worded in a way that invites polling opinions, something our Q&A platform isn't designed to handle. My suggestion is to edit the statement at the end so it's a more definitive, actual question, not a request for people to simply share their experiences. For guidance/info on the thought process, please see Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. If you do make some edits, please feel free to flag the post and we can reopen for more answers. Hope this helps! – jmort253 Apr 21 '14 at 21:20

Find the career path no one in the family wants. As businesses grow, so does the variety and quantity of tasks. Maybe one family member is in-line to be the head of accounting, but hates dealing with accounting software maintenance. wouldn't it be great to be the person who volunteers for that task?

Align yourself with the family member that you think will take-over the company. This may or may not coincide with my first recommendation. Although you may not ever be the head of the company, you'll be the "right-hand-man" of the person who is.

Get Equity At some point you need to make a decision if this is your career job. Start asking about getting equity when you feel you've earned it. If they say "no" you can wait it out. If they say "never", think about moving-on at a later date. Of course there are plenty of jobs that do not offer equity, so get one that doesn't have the additional burden of getting passed up for promotions for reasons you have no control over.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    Also, you can marry a family member. – user8365 Apr 21 '14 at 13:03
  • @JoeStrazzere - Good perspective. It doesn't have to just be family affiliation. It could be friendships, educational background, level of experience, etc. If you just can't over-come it, focus more on getting around it. – user8365 Apr 22 '14 at 14:11

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .