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Suggesting that a founder is holding the firm back...

Thomas

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I have a dilemma and hope to get some feedback from those in similar situations...

I work for a small, closely-held firm that is run by a family. I won't dwell on specifics or air laundry except to say that everyone in the firm at some time or another fears or hates various family members (particularly the president), sometimes changing from one to the other as circumstances dictate. Outside of work, he is a prince to us all, but we seldom see each other outside of work.

I have risen to management (such as it is at a family firm) through the graces of this firm and I do owe them at the very least a debt of gratitude. I have a decent relationship with the chairman (grand pere) and think about broaching the topic of succession as it appears that the pres doesn't like being here. Frankly, when he's around, I don't like being here, either. I know others who feel the same way, and if enough people leave, the firm may fold.

So, for my position - do I bolt? Tough it out? Bring it up? How hard do I push with the chairman? Would winning be worth the bad will? I'm looking hard at the next step, and would prefer to stick around, but not indefinitely under this sort of stress.
 

Aaron

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Before I launch into giving advice I assume you are shooting for a President/CEO/COO type position. I think the first step you need to consider is whether you want to "be" president or "do" president. I've unfortunately seen people fail miserably because they liked the idea of the position but could not fulfill what was required to execute the position successfully. Second thing is you seem uncertain on whether you really like the company and the people you work with. If you're not passionate about the company and the people you work with why not look for opportunties where you will be?

A.
 

Quirk

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Small, closely-held, family firm with dysfunctional relationships. What am I missing?
 

globetrotter

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I have worked for 3 family owned businesses.

1. 15 million dollar company, run by founder, who was frankly not a businessman, but an inventor. nice guy, thought he knew business but really didn't. put a dozen or so family members into positions that they wouldn't have had if they weren't family members. his sister reported to me and was a twit, but he accepted that she was a twit and only aksed that I wouldn't be cruel to her. I was there in CEO and knew that I couldn't go any farther. the company hasn't grown in the past 10 years, and if I had stayed I would be in the same position that I was at the time. frankly, almost no stress, a nice title, intersting enough, walking distance from home, nice people to work with. no challenge, not enough money.

2. worked for a company (also about 15 million), where the CEO was the nephew of the chairman, and this was his first job out of college. the CFO was the in law of some other board member, and was an idiot. this was a real nightmare. I would have chewed off a paw to get out.

3. the company I work for now is a >100 million dollar company, CEO is the grandson of founder. 3 cousins work for the company, as well as the CEO's children. the CEO started in the company out of college as a line level engineer, and worked 20 years before he was CEO. his son is a technician. nobody has gotten a free ride. great people, great company. the CEO has made choices that limit growth slightly, but in a way that I think is good - we have chosen to do all manufacturing in the same place we have dome for 80 years, no outsourcing or cutting jobs, for instance. what the CEO is doing, essentially, is making slightly less money than he may make otherwise (it is a private compnay) but keeping his standards and protecting his people. I have a huge amount of respect for him and love the company. I am hoping to be here for a long time.


you aren't going to change the boss. if you have 3 months salary in the bank, talk to the other managers, and see if you can approach him as a group and suggest he step down. but this may be a trigger to getting canned. otherwise, move on.
 

EL72

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Family business 101:

1) Blood is thicker than anything else and family members will always come before you, often at the expense of the business.

2) If you are not part of the family, you can rise to a certain level but will never be allowed to run the company.

True story: a very successful and ambitious salesman working for a small family biz was outperforming all the other family members and making lots of $. He was fired and told by the CEO: you are making too much $ and we don't have the same last name so you have to go.
 

JBZ

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Originally Posted by EL72
Family business 101:

1) Blood is thicker than anything else and family members will always come before you, often at the expense of the business.


For an extreme example of this, watch Road to Perdition.
 

imageWIS

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Originally Posted by EL72
True story: a very successful and ambitious salesman working for a small family biz was outperforming all the other family members and making lots of $. He was fired and told by the CEO: you are making too much $ and we don't have the same last name so you have to go.

Smart business move.

Jon.
 

EL72

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Originally Posted by JBZ
For an extreme example of this, watch Road to Perdition.

Yes, very true. The example of the prototypical family business, with issues of succession, sibling rivalry... I used in class when I lectured on this topic is the Corleone family. Students usually got a kick out of it but if you watch the Godfather, all these issues are quite salient.
 

Dakota rube

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Originally Posted by globetrotter
you aren't going to change the boss. if you have 3 months salary in the bank, talk to the other managers, and see if you can approach him as a group and suggest he step down. but this may be a trigger to getting canned. otherwise, move on.
Follow GT's advice, to the letter. Although I'd be more comfortable with 6 months cushion in the bank.

Or, on second thought, does the controlling family have any moderately attractive daughters you might find yourself, ahem, attracted to in a matrimonial fashion?
 

globetrotter

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Originally Posted by Dakota rube
Follow GT's advice, to the letter. Although I'd be more comfortable with 6 months cushion in the bank.

:


yeah, 6 months is better....
 

JBZ

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Originally Posted by dopey
Fathers rightly fear being castrated by their children who in turn try to eat their own young. It is a maudlin cycle, really.

Not in my neighborhood. Of course, YMMV.
 

Thomas

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Thanks to you all for your insight. I suspect I'm turning a blind eye to the faults in the situation and have grown comfortable. Perhaps it is time to move on.
 

Thomas

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Originally Posted by Dakota rube
Follow GT's advice, to the letter. Although I'd be more comfortable with 6 months cushion in the bank. Or, on second thought, does the controlling family have any moderately attractive daughters you might find yourself, ahem, attracted to in a matrimonial fashion?

The short answer is yes, but the question really doesn't matter since I'm sure Mrs. T would have an opinion on this very subject. Then there's what whole changing my name business, which seems a bit much... Since you mention it, I knew someone who did just that. The marriage fell apart and he was run out of town.
 

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