Ask Amy: Am I Jumping The Gun?

Dear Amy,

I manage the accounting department in my family’s business, and I really enjoy my work. I’m lucky to have a lot of flexibility (I make my own hours, work from home, etc.), and I really treasure this arrangement because my two young children keep me very busy.

I have two siblings, a sister who works in the business (part-time) and a brother who’s a stay-at-home dad. We are all passionate about the business (we sell medical equipment). I’m 30…and the oldest.

My mother has been running the business for 10 years, and hired a non-family COO several years ago. He has helped her create a very positive culture, and had led the executive team in a very positive way. He’s decided that he’d like to work somewhere else so he can test himself in a larger organization.

So here’s my issue: We’re starting to search for a new COO, and I’m very tempted to apply for the position. I think I have strong skills as a manager, and even though it would be a huge responsibility, I think I could do the job.

Do you think I should try for it?

~ Tiffany

Amy Katz Dear Tiffany,

First of all, it’s great that you and your family are part of a business that you all believe in, and that has given you a role that fits your life so beautifully.

But before you apply to be the COO, I strongly recommend that you take some time to think through the implications. You’ve told me that you appreciate the flexibility you have, and that you’re a busy parent. A COO position can be very demanding; as you say, it’s a big responsibility.

It sounds like the open position has stirred you up a bit, giving you a vision of how your career might develop and a position that you would enjoy. You may well want to take on that role some day….but I do wonder if now is the time.

Of course, it’s your choice to apply or not to, but I’d like to offer an alternative suggestion. Ask your mom for some private time at work. Explain that the COO’s decision to leave has made you realize that you’d like to take on a significant role as a leader in the business one day. She may not agree…but I’m going to assume that she’ll be pleased and supportive.

Ask your mom to help you create a plan for your leadership development. Get her advice about the different roles you might take on, and the experiences that will build your knowledge of the industry and your strategic planning skills. Your mom has been a leader for a long time, and her insights will undoubtedly be helpful.

My real message here is to take your time. The new COO may turn out to be a wonderful mentor for you, whose “outsider” experience may be very important over time.

There really is no need to leapfrog into a role that you’re not prepared for.





Tiffany’s situation may be one that you’ve experienced, too. Please share any ways that helped you decide in the comments section below.

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