Should I join the family business?

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A family of meerkats

If you're thinking about joining the family business when you leave school, you probably want an outside opinion on what it's like. We talked to Charles Clinkard, who's in charge of the shoe-shop chain of the same name, which has been in his family for over 90 years!

He picked out some of his favourite aspects of working in a family environment – as well as things to bear in mind before making the leap. We hope this gives you an idea of what it's like working for your own family business – or even somebody else's!

The family atmosphere

This one might sound pretty obvious, but it’s true that working in a family business feels like being part of a family. This leads to a supportive workplace that really cares about you and wants you to do well in your job. People who work in family businesses often say that they feel very valued and part of a team.

"One of the best things about working at Charles Clinkard is when members of the team say they really appreciate the family atmosphere and values that the company has. It really makes you realise that, despite continuing to grow, we have still managed to maintain the values that were important to our parents and grandparents when they were running the business."

Rachel Clinkard, ecommerce director 


A huge benefit of working in a business with your family is that you don’t have to feel nervous when presenting ideas or discussion points. You already have a relationship with your colleagues and can feel free to be honest with them. This is a really important feature, as many workplaces may be hindered by shy workers who are less likely to voice their opinion out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings, or even sounding silly themselves.

You get rewarded for your hard work

If you are good at your job, a family business will be eager for you to keep working for them. This means that they want to reward hard workers with promotions to higher positions. This does happen in non-family businesses as well but family businesses tend to be smaller which means you have a better chance of being noticed!

An opportunity for experience

For young people, working in a family business is a great opportunity for experience. Young workers could be granted opportunities or afforded experience that they wouldn’t usually benefit from in normal places of work, so having a foot in the door could aid career development greatly, even in a different industry.

Standing out

Showcasing your talents and getting noticed at work is a lot easier within a smaller-scale family business than a larger, non-family-run business. This visibility increases the possibility of promotion based on your hard work and efforts. The small size of most family businesses also leads to a greater sense of family atmosphere among staff as everyone gets to know each other. This in turn leads to a warm and friendly work environment.

"I started my career at Charles Clinkard in 1982, as a Saturday girl at the Newcastle upon Tyne store. This is where I began my love of retail — shoes in particular!

Dealing with the general public and gaining sales gave me a real buzz. I was very lucky to work for a family-run business in that they were willing to do what was best for my career development. They allowed me to continue my passion for selling by transferring to the Leeds city centre store whilst studying at Leeds Polytechnic, and then back to Newcastle during the holiday time.

I found that one of the biggest benefits of working for a family business is that if you worked hard, and showed dedication, you could progress within the business.

Personally, I love working for a family business such as Charles Clinkard. I can interact with all members of the team from the MD downwards, and have autonomy that would not necessarily be afforded to me in a large organisation."

Julie Watson, children’s buyer

More freedom

Family businesses usually let their staff have more freedom in their jobs. This is great as it lets you think up new and creative ways to get better results at work. Also, because you are encouraged to think of new ideas it means that you will never stop developing your skills and talents.

More freedom at work can also benefit your home life too. Family businesses are known for being flexible with their staff and allowing them to change their working patterns to fit in with changes in their home life.

Things to think about...

While working for a family business can be great, there are a few things that you should think about before joining one:

  • Due to the smaller size of most family businesses, opportunities for promotion can come along less often than in much larger businesses.
  • If you only ever work in family businesses, you might miss out on experiences and skills you can only gain from non-family businesses, such as learning how larger corporations work and developing your interpersonal abilities.
  • If you and your family don’t enjoy a relationship where discussion flows freely, and you tend to get into arguments with your loved ones, you may wish to consider whether joining the family business is a good move. An argumentative, hostile work environment doesn’t usually translate to good business decisions.
  • If you are thinking about joining your own family’s business, take a look at these five questions from the Family Business Consulting Group that can help you decide whether it is the right move for your career.

A family atmosphere, more freedom and a better chance to be noticed are all top reasons to join a family business. If you have a positive attitude and always do your best, the benefits of a family business could help you to go far in your career.

Thanks Charles! If freedom, flexibility and the chance to be creative sounds appealing to you, find out how you could go it alone by starting your own business like these four young people we talked to.

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