5 Attractive Reasons To Join A Family Business Despite Being An Outsider

This post originally appeared on Forbes.

Globally, 75% of entrepreneurs and 81% of business owners “co-own and/or co-manage their businesses with family members,” according to the 2019/2020 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Family Entrepreneurship Report produced and released by Babson College. And yet, family businesses are often perceived as parochial, torn by rivalries and emotionalism and lacking in business objectivityand acumen. But research shows that family businesses actually last longer than other kinds of companies do.

In a recent conversation, Julie Charlestein, the fourth-generation CEO of Premier Dental Products Company and author of How to Lead Your Family Business: Excelling Through Unexpected Crises, Choices, and Challenges, shares five reasons that family businesses can be so appealing even to people who are not family members. These five advantages come from the nature of the culture and leadership that is often present in family businesses.

Strong Sense Of Mission And Vision

The more employees recognize that they’re participating in something larger than themselves—and larger, even, than the business itself—the more deeply connected they feel and the more easily they will be inspired to be tenacious, show grit and make progress, even in tough times. “Premier [Dental Products] is really something bigger than all of us,” Charlestein says of her team members’ sense of pride and value. “All of us recognize that and our contribution to that. We are in the healthcare business—we’re delivering better oral health to people around the world. So that’s something that’s very easy to galvanize around, to be excited about and to want to have a very strong, participatory level in.”

Personal Authenticity

Unlike many corporate or personal entities, being part of a family business lets you get to know the owners as real people, even when they happen to be the CEO. This can reduce the sense of hierarchy, posturing and politics that many people experience at work. At Premier, says Charlestein, new executives who are used to being extremely deferential to their leaders find the culture there refreshing. “Yeah, that’s not how we roll,” she says. “You talk to me the same way you talk to everybody else; you give me the information the same way you give it to everybody else. There are no pedestals here, there’s no hierarchy—we are very collaborative. That actually puts you in a worse position than it will if you just treat me like a normal human being.”

Deep Partnership Means True Team Spirit

“I feel like everyone in the organization are my people and our people. And there’s like a symbiotic relationship,” says Charlestein. That kind of relationship fosters loyalty and trust as well as the opportunity for employees to demonstrate their expertise and make significant contributions. “I know what I want, but I might not know the best way to get there,” she explains. “And I know that these guys do, because they’ve done it before. So of course I’m going to listen to them and rely on them, and it’s going to be a team and a collaborative effort. The team expects that from me and I expect that from them. I’m laying the tracks, but the engineering is being done by the team.”

Continuity Builds Confidence

Family-owned businesses can also provide an underlying drumbeat of confidence in ongoing strength and success. For Charlestein, that sense of conviction comes from family stories and the deep experiences she had with her grandfather and father as they ran Premier and shared both business and life lessons with her. There is an abiding sense of commitment that comes from growing up visiting the business, doing little jobs as a child and imbibing the cultural norms, she notes, and this later manifests as commitment to the continuity of the business and its people.

Charlestein says she grew up with the understanding that “This is the business. I work here. Grandpa works here. We’re very proud of it. Everybody loves it.” So, unlike top leaders who may come and go, a family-run business can provide consistency and reliability. “I’m not intruding on anyone’s territory or doing things out of turn,” she says. “I didn’t show up here unexpectedly. This is the company, this is the job. This is what I’m going to do, and I’m going to do it the best I can.”

Openness Leads To Ongoing Growth

With a strong, collaborative, energetic team behind it, a business almost can’t help growing and changing. “You don’t stay in business for 110 years successfully without evolving,” says Charlestein. “Part of it is a willingness and a recognition that there are a lot of smart people out there that I can learn from. Part of it also comes from the willingness to be vulnerable, and that’s also availed me the ability to learn from others and accept and welcome their opinions.”

Charlestein has brought in an outside president to tap more of the company’s potential because she recognized that there was more value available than what she could mine by herself. “My superpower is knowing this business and knowing what this business needs,” she says. “And this business needed a president who could really help take us to the next level. We’re doing all these amazing things. So let’s add in another amazing level and see how our vision can be taken to the next level, executed on in a more robust way. You always have to be thinking about what’s next.”

It’s true that a family business can be intimidating if it seems like a closed circle where no one except family members can succeed. But if a family-owned company acts on these five sources of potential, everyone who works there can grow and thrive personally as well as professionally.

Onward and upward—

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