Do you want to leave the family business?

Do you want to leave the family business?

Joining the family business is not as cut and dry as accepting a job at any other company. You don’t necessarily join for the sake of your personal career goals, but for other, more layered reasons – such as wanting to work side-by-side with your elders to keep a very important aspect of the family alive and thriving.

Partner, Head of Family Business in Canada

KPMG in Canada


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Emotions can’t be kept out of it, and often the next generation will almost feel obligated to join the family business, either as soon as they can, or as an ultimate resting ground after gaining outside experience.

But what if you start to feel a niggle nudging you away from the family legacy and on to new experiences?

Are you running away, or towards your future?

Before making any quick decisions, it’s important to take a step back and assess why you want to leave. Leaving a family business has to be done with grace and for the right reasons. Ask yourself a few key questions first:

  • Have you found your calling in a different career?
  • Is your current role not what you expected it to be?

If your answer to the first question is yes, then you still need to explore the options available to you and your family. It could be that you don’t need to leave the family business, but need to discuss changing your role to suit your own professional goals. If your life’s passion doesn’t align with the business at all though, then it’s important to leave the company with the family on your side.

If on the other hand you aren’t where you expected to be in the business, then this is a different discussion. This means that you would actually be perfectly happy to stay in the family business if things were different. Here you need to first work out personally what you want your role to be, realistically, and then motivate to work towards that going forward.

Don’t let emotions cloud your judgement

Working with family can be difficult at times, as personal feelings and issues can sometimes spill over into the professional space. If you are thinking about making a break because your current working situation is plagued by a specific conflict, then you owe it to you and your family to work to resolve the conflict before assuming the grass is greener somewhere else.

It’s easy to imagine that working somewhere else will be conflict-free and easy, but in reality, every company is made up of people. You could go from rubbing the wrong way with your family member to doing exactly the same with your boss at another company.

By not working to resolve a current issue you could be denying yourself the chance to grow from the resolution, and thus just take yourself and the same way of thinking with you that could have led to the conflict in the first place, somewhere new.

If you are leaving to “get away” then stop and reconsider. If you are leaving because the family business never felt like your true calling, then by all means explore.

Ultimately, it should be clear when choosing to leave the family business that that’s all you are doing. Allow your family to be pleased for your new adventure on your correct path – don’t point fingers or blame the business for your change in career. When you leave for the right reasons, then you won’t be leaving behind what’s important.

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