My dad is the CEO of the family business but is impossible to work with, should I stay or leave?

A reader writes: 

Long story short, I joined the family business about five years ago. We do consulting in the construction industry and each year we have grown maybe ten percent, but nothing that substantial. When I was a kid, my dad founded the business and each year, kept it growing until now we have about 15 employees. My dad is on his way out, not sure how long, but it could be anywhere from 2-10 years. 

He told me many times that when he steps down, I can take over the family business. In preparation, he periodically hires consultants to help me with leading and managing more effectively. However, I don’t know if his actions match his intentions. On a call, the consultant, Bill had a slip and mentioned that my dad said, “he [my dad | CEO] plans to train him [me], to be an employee, but not to run things and plans to sell the company in a few years.”

While I initially doubted what Bill said about my dad, I started to pay more attention. I could see that I didn’t really have any control over my day to day tasks. Whenever I wanted a budget change, I would have to run it by him, or even the way my direct reports call on new prospects, I have to consult him. In other words, everything had to go through him, even though I was a young manager in my late 20s.

The payout for taking over the company would probably mean at least a 3x to my already strong salary. Should I stick this out, or should I start all over? – Kyle


Hey Kyle, 

First off, sorry about hearing that from your father. As someone who has worked in family business, I will tell you first hand, that is not an uncommon story. Plan, short and sweet, if I were you, I would talk to your dad, and if he is serious about you being the CEO get some sort of time table. If he doesn’t and is wishy washy about when you take over you should leave. 

There is something to be said about starting your own business, or even walking your own path. While your parent’s, in this case your father, have accelerated your earning potential by moving you up to a manager position most likely faster than what you have experienced in corporate, it’s still his business because he started it. On your own, you will most likely not earn as much as fast, but you will be leading your own path. 

When I first started out as a business owner, I left corporate, even though my parents cautioned against it, and I successfully lost all of my money within 16 months of trying to start my own business. Their advice was spot on where I should have had more income coming in before leaving, I still was able to experience trying to do this ‘my way’. I do, however, now pay more attention to their advice. However, even with losing out financially, I gained invaluable business knowledge and experience. Relating this back to you, your father has set you up well in the family business, but if it does not align with your future goals, it makes sense for you to go your own way. Finances are not the only thing you can get rewarded for trying to walk your own path. 

Hope that helps!


Jeff Butler

Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.


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