Career Choice: Joining the Family Business

Jun 17, 05:49 PM

The family business landscape in Ireland is significant and is at the heart of every town and village in the country. 64% of Irish firms are family businesses and when we include agriculture, this rises to over 80%, generating over 50% of GDP and more than 50% of our employment.

This week we are exploring the option of joining the family business as a career choice. Siobhán Murphy, DCU Careers Advisor is joined by Eric Clinton, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship in DCU and Director of the National Centre for Family Business, DCU Business School to discuss this topic.

Show notes
0:06- 0:45
Siobhán Murphy, Careers Advisor DCU introduces the topic of joining the family business and Eric Clinton, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Director of National Centre for Family Business, DCU Business School.

0:45 - 5:20
What is the family business Landscape in Ireland?
64% of our firms are family businesses. This does not include family farms. When you include this, it brings it up to approx 80%. Agriculture is an important part of our economy. These family businesses are in every town and village in Ireland. 50% of GDP comes from family businesses and more than 50% of employment comes from family businesses. Look at the sponsorship of local GAA/Scouting/local charity and how it also provides a contribution to wider society. However, there are greater numbers of family businesses in other EU countries ie France and Italy. 

5:20 - 11:15
What to consider when looking at joining the family business 
First thing is to be honest with yourself. Important to understand your own passion.  If you want to go into a different profession - do so. You can of course be an owner without being involved in the family business. Consider working outside of the family business and gain different experiences. Some family businesses are multi-generational and they have learned how important it is to gain experience outside of the family business. Manor Farm has a rule that family members must work outside for five years in a managerial role and must be interviewed before joining the family firm. Consider working abroad and keep connected  with the family business. Join a network of next generation family businesses to have a support group.

11:30 17:45
Family dynamics, work life balance - the tightrope
Recent events with Covid have resulted in succession happening sooner than expected which is challenging for all involved. Eric suggests structure and formalisation and avoiding the kitchen table being the boardroom. It can get dysfunctional very quickly. Take what you learn from university and take those best practices back into the family business. Firstly, use your parents first names in the workplace to change the dynamics of the relationship ie John instead of Dad. Try to avoid bringing the business back into the family home where at all possible. Working with siblings can also be challenging. Almost the worst thing to do is equally divide the wealth and there should be a conversation about ownership - one option is a co-CEO. Dynamics of children and grudges can prevail. Needs to be a method to manage these situations.

17:45 - 22:15
What are the joys of joining a family business?
Legacy and a sense of pride are key. The business comes with capital and this is a huge advantage with a potential to invest. It can mean that there is a diversification opportunity. Eric reflects on the Keogh Family Business and how they have diversified but were always innovative. Being responsive and innovative is what is important for each generation.

22:15 -24:00
Are you family first business or business first family business?
Legacy can be good but also pressure. Knowing how and when to sell etc is important and need to move to the mindset of the business first family business. Commercial decisions have to be made. Have to be willing to make hard decisions.

24:00- 27:00
You successfully joined the firm - but you now want to do different things and leave
Eric explains that one of the most important things to do is set up structures to keep the business fit and healthy. One of the key pieces of advice is to have a shareholder’s agreement. This covers how the wealth is passed on and how shares can be sold.

27:00- 33:45
Adopting career planning approaches to the family business
In career planning a sense of place is important and which for many can be in a number of places around the world. There is an opportunity as the world has got smaller to work in the family business but from a different part of the country/world. It is about thinking differently and laterally and not always assuming that you need to situate yourself locally. Eric provides a number of examples of how this has arisen for family businesses in Ireland either through circumstance or through innovation. Irish family businesses are in all parts of the world.

33:45 -37:15
Summing up & Eric’s Top Tip
Siobhan & Eric sum up. Eric’s top tip is to have an honest conversation with yourself, get a mentor outside of the family business, gain experience outside of the business, see the world and upskill before joining the family business.