This system is comprised of three overlapping groups or “circles,” each with its own set of goals, interests, and concerns:
- The business (comprised of the organization and its employees)
- The owners of the business (those who hold an equity stake either directly or via trust)
- The family that owns the business (the owners, direct descendants, and spouses within the owning family)
Calling this a “system” is significant. It highlights the fact that these three overlapping circles are interconnected and interdependent. By its nature, being a system means that what happens in one group (or circle) influences the others. A circle in conflict can negatively affect the performance of the other two circles. Likewise, a high-performing circle can bolster the overall system. This leads to increased complexity in a family business, compared to a non-family business.
How does this pertain to your personal career decision? If you decide to join your family business, recognize that you will be changing your position in the system. Expect a ripple effect across all three circles that will need to be managed. Anticipate what that might look like: If you were to join, how will your role and relationships change? What impact might that shift have on you and others, such as your siblings, cousins, parents, or children?
Having a successful career in the family business ultimately requires you to be capable and respected in all three circles. You will need to develop your skills, knowledge, and reputation as an employee, as an owner, and as a family member. Different capabilities are required by you in different circles. Developing this takes time and dedication.