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Not All Families Are Created Equally

Our last blog post talked about relocation - and the need to address the question directly.  Will you relocate?  If a position requires you work at a certain location, this is a rather basic question.  There is another area that requires a rather basic question.

Will you work for a family-owned business?

As the title of this post states, not all families are created equally.  The same can be said of family-owned businesses.  Family businesses are as different as families themselves . . . . . some fit you better than others.

Yesterday I had the privilege of presenting to the MN Families in Business Group.  The topic was Culture Matters: Selecting for Culture and Skills.  When we take on an assignment from a family business (and about 50% of our business is with family-owned businesses), we receive a position description with very little information about the family, culture and norms of behavior.  Yet it is the family, (business) culture and norms of behavior that are most critical for assuring the best match.  We spend most of our time in search initiation meetings talking about the family and culture (yes - we discuss the position description as well) - what it takes to successfully work for the hiring manager (often a family member) and the family itself.

Candidates need to be equally discerning - we will drive that.

Some candidates simply want the next role in their career.  They are a Director - they want to be a Vice President.  They are part of domestic company - they want to pursue an international company.  The private versus public distinction is often an afterthought.

There is only one right response.

We tell candidates that our client is a family-owned business.  There are three possible responses - only one of which is correct.

  • Does it (the business being family-owned) matter?  This is a concerning response.  The culture of an organization matters - and the fact that there is a family culture that is part (or all) of this is critical.
  • I would never work for a family-owned business.  This is a great response - totally honest (for some) and helps us in our goal of finding the right person.
  • Tell me about the family.  This is the right response!

Simply put - culture matters.

Regardless of ownership, finding a candidate that fits the culture is where retained executive search can really make an impact for the client.  For the candidate, regardless of the company - ask the right questions.  We do!