It’s All in the Family

People make a lot of assumptions when you say you work for the family business. Many times I hesitate when someone asks what I do, not sure if I want to own up to the company being my family’s. Even writing “own up to it” sounds ridiculous, like if it were this shameful thing.

If we look back at history, there was a time when the majority of people worked in the family business and stayed within the same line as work as the family. From farmers to blacksmiths to royalty…you did what your father did. I’m all for progress and finding your own path (it’s part of what I think about doing too), but there’s also something reputable in keeping something going that your grandfather started.

Nowadays “I work for the family business” is seen as synonymous with “I just coast through, work as many hours as I want, and basically can never get fired.” I think this feeling is more prevalent in the US. I have nothing to back that sentiment up; it’s just a feeling. People tend to think we get cushy office jobs or are put straight into executive positions without having worked our way there. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen because I’ve seen it happen, but there’s also the other reality.

I didn’t start or end college ever thinking that I’d work with my dad. I didn’t really completely understand what went into the business, but I knew I didn’t want that job. This from someone who had never had an office job, so didn’t even know what that meant. I wanted to write. I wanted to do something creative.

So when I first started working there it was temporary, while I figured out what I really wanted to do. Then it lead to a job in customer service and slowly evolved to where I am today. It took me years to get to where I am today.

I went into the customer service job knowing that everyone was thinking “Oh, here’s Jose’s daughter. Let’s tread lightly.” I always made it a point to work harder than everyone else. I was out to prove that I deserved the job and any promotion that came along with it. Did my last name get me in the door? Of course, but not any more than any other recent college grad with connections or networking would have. I was just as qualified credential wise for a Customer Service Representative position than any one else who would have applied. It was entry level and that was the smart thing that my dad did for me. He made me start at the bottom.

Through the 12 years that I’ve worked there, I’ve had different bosses (only shortly reporting directly to my dad) and I’ve proven to them that I have the work ethic and capability to get the job done. I play by the same rules as everyone else and have very rarely used my last name as leverage. By nature, I am not a slacker, so I’d be working this hard at any job at any company, but it’s different in this position. Not only am I giving it 200% to prove myself to everyone else, but there’s also an added responsibility because at the end of the day it’s my company too. It’s hard not to take things personally when it is personal.

Any time a new peer comes on board, I can see them thinking again that the only reason I’m VP is because my father put me there. I then have to start proving myself all over again. Respect is earned, right? So it always feels like I’m running uphill without the ability to slow down. This sabbatical is the first real “perk” that I’ve taken from it being my family business. I know I have had this break as an option that others in the company don’t have, but I finally had to say screw it. I deserve it whether other people think I do or not.

That’s the whole point isn’t it? To stop caring so much what everyone else thinks. This was step 1. Step 2 continues to be finally figuring out if I want to branch out on my own.

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