“You can help us here”: Finding your Niche in your Family’s Business

Growing up in your family’s business does not guarantee that you will be naturally drawn to working there. You might not be interested in becoming an accountant, or a lawyer, or a business person like your parents. You may want to find your own interests and develop your own skills. However, you might be surprised to find your family business could be the best place for you after all.

Several years ago Megan deSola was floundering. With an undergraduate degree in public administration, she thought that pursuing a law degree made sense. But after a year in law school, she realized it was not a good fit, and dropped out.

Around that time, her dad said to her, “You can help us here.”

“Here” was the family business, Viox & Viox, a firm in Northern Kentucky that specializes in civil engineering, surveying, and landscape architecture. Megan’s dad and uncle are the two principals.

For many years, Megan’s dad and uncle assumed that “someone in the family is going to be an engineer, right?”…until they realized that none of their children had that in mind.

So when Megan was looking around for a career and feeling a bit lost, her dad suggested she work in the financial area of the business. But then he went further. He encouraged her to get a graduate degree in planning, a field more related to her interests that was also important to the business. Now Megan is the Director of Planning…and planning to take over the leadership role when the time is right.

Megan is quite open about the complexities of growing up in a family business. Along with other family members, she worked for Viox and Viox during summers in high school, and felt like the business was her second home. “We could do whatever we wanted to do,” she said. But over time, as the business grew, the family members working in the business had privileges that other employees didn’t. “We were acting a bit entitled, and the employees were wondering, “Why do they get to do that”? It was time to define roles and responsibilities that were clear and fair.

Asking for help was not easy for Megan’s dad and uncle. With the guidance of trusted business advisors and the support from a local family business center, they redesigned their operations and are working on succession planning and ownership issues.

Megan admits that she doesn’t always work directly in the profession she was trained for. But she also feels grateful to her dad, and comfortable knowing that with a great group of non-family members on the leadership team, and an equally strong team of outside advisors, she will have the support she’ll need when she takes over.

“It’s all about being connected here”, she’s says.

Sometimes, fathers really do know best.

Did you find a way to use your own interests to help your family’s business? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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