NEW YORK – There are new faces this summer at small companies across the country: the owners’ kids, getting a taste of what business is about.
Owners who hire their children for their offices or factories usually want their sons and daughters to have more than busywork; they want these new employees to have a meaningful work and learning experience.
Often in a family-owned business, parents hire their kids not only to help them learn, but also out of hope that their children will become interested in taking over the company some day.
Phil and Patsy Gay, who run U.S. Lawns franchises in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., have had their three sons working for them at various times. The oldest, Jeremy, will join the company full time after he graduates from the University of Alabama with a business management degree later this year.
The Gays said their son’s work experience helped him in his studies, and vice versa, and while he and his younger brothers have done a variety of jobs with the landscaping company, Jeremy will be helping to run the company when he gets his degree.
“We would like for them to buy into this,” Phil Gay said.
While there is much to be gained from having a child work in a parent’s business, management consultant Lonnie Pacelli warned that this new relationship – that of employer-employee – needs to be approached with care.
“You absolutely have to set expectations up front that this is … different,” said Pacelli, owner of Leading on the Edge International in Sammamish, Wash.
He suggests owners let teens know that at work, their mothers or fathers are now their bosses, not parents.
And, “to avoid confusing them, you’re going to behave slightly differently” at work than you would at home, Pacelli said. When there’s on-the-job conflict, “if you’re mad at them as a manager, don’t be mad at them as a parent,” he said.
Still, it can be hard for a 16-year-old to separate the different roles. Your child could spend the evening sulking at home because he or she got in trouble with the boss.
In that case, Pacelli said, “you have to coach them and talk them through stuff.”
The owner also has to be sure that the familial relationship doesn’t get in the way of running the business. Your young worker needs to be treated the same as any other employee – you shouldn’t make things easier, but you shouldn’t be tougher on them, either.