UK markets closed
  • NIKKEI 225

    -971.34 (-2.36%)

    +39.00 (+0.22%)

    +0.30 (+0.36%)

    -3.10 (-0.13%)
  • DOW

    -434.60 (-1.05%)
  • Bitcoin GBP

    -793.54 (-1.59%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    -9.04 (-0.68%)
  • NASDAQ Composite

    -141.70 (-0.79%)
  • UK FTSE All Share

    +12.15 (+0.27%)

Your company is not your family. And you should be thankful it’s not

<span>Lachlan, Rupert and James Murdoch in Sun Valley, Idaho, on 10 July 2013.</span><span>Photograph: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images</span>
Lachlan, Rupert and James Murdoch in Sun Valley, Idaho, on 10 July 2013.Photograph: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, just made a very honest admission: “It is true that a company’s not a family,” he said in a recent podcast interview. “We used to refer to ourselves as a family, and then we did have to fire people, or they’d have to leave the company, and you don’t fire members of your family.”

Whenever a CEO says their employees are “family”, they’re lying. Your company is not your family.

But don’t be disheartened. Your employer does care about you. Really, they do. And it’s been my experience that the smaller the company you work for, the more the owners care about their employees. But this “caring” only goes so far. That’s a good thing. You should thank the gods that you’re not part of “a family”. I know this because I work with a bunch of family-owned businesses. Sometimes it ain’t great.


This is not to say that some family-owned firms aren’t excellent. I have one client, for example, that’s owned by three brothers who are extremely close and work well together. Sure, they have their fights and sometimes plates are thrown. But for the most part they – and their wives and their children – are doing fine, and so is their company.

I have another client – a trucking firm – that has four generations of family workers in the business and, thanks to the foresight of the very smart father and mother who founded the firm, must adhere to nepotism, succession and other rules that were set up long ago by an independent committee of their board of directors.

Related: Parents attending their child’s job interview? As a manager, I’m all for it!

Then there’s the construction equipment manufacturer that’s owned by two sisters who get along swimmingly. Their husbands even golf together. The families are close. This is good.

I can give more examples of successful family-owned companies. But, unfortunately, there are just as many bad family situations. Not Soprano bad, but still pretty bad.

Like the member of one of Fresno, California’s most affluent and politically powerful family businesses who sued his father and uncles, alleging fraud, mismanagement and “a pattern of racketeering activity”. Or, in a real-life Succession plot, there are the members of the Goldman family, heirs to a real estate empire, who filed a lawsuit against the youngest daughter of the company’s founder, accusing her of sidelining them and mismanaging the company’s billion-dollar portfolio.

There’s the “family conflict” at a well-known Cuban restaurant in Los Angeles that reportedly led to the closure of the near-50-year-old spot after details emerged that that the son owed the mother more than $350,000. The owner of a North Carolina barbecue restaurant was sued by his sister and brother-in-law, alleging that they were “cheated” out of $300,000 to open the establishment. There’s also the sister of an NFL team owner who went to court accusing that brother of “misogynistic” and “financially ruinous” business practices.

Even famous families feud over business. Beyoncé fired her father for “taking funds he was not entitled to” from a 2011 tour. The Biden, Trump and Kardashian family businesses are a minefield of infighting, lawsuits and intrigues. Over the years, the Waltons, Guccis, Redstones, Hefners and Murdochs have gone to war with each other.

Still want to be part of the family? I didn’t think so.

Family members who own a business have problems that their employees cannot even begin to comprehend. And it’s always about the money. When a brother buys a new house, it’s guaranteed that one of the sisters-in-law somewhere will raise an eyebrow. When a family member draws too much out of the firm, his siblings (and their spouses) are bound to demand an equal share. When the drunk cousin fails to show up to work for three days, who’s going to tell him? When the divorced wife – or the mistress – of the philandering father decides to sue for more alimony and damages, where’s the money going to come from? I’m just scratching the surface.

You don’t want this. You don’t want to be part of the corporate “family”. Chesky’s right: your company is not your family. Enjoy your status as a third-party, unrelated, arms-length worker. Do a great job. Come to work on time. Have a great attitude. Then collect your paycheck and go home to your own crazy family.