What to do When You Feel Trapped in the Family Business

As both a family business advisor and a former family business leader, I understand the pressures and conflicts that come with working in a family business.

It can be challenging to reconcile the desire to pursue personal goals and ambitions with the responsibilities and expectations that come with being part of a family enterprise.

One common issue that arises is the feeling of being robbed of choices.

Some family members may feel obligated to join or stay in the family business, even if it is not their passion or aligned with their career goals. The pressure to carry on the family legacy and not disappoint previous generations can be overwhelming.

This issue is close to my heart because it’s my story. It’s a big part of why I became a family business advisor.

If you, or someone you know, is in this position – here are my best tips:

Remember…it’s your life.

You are your own person with your own dreams and aspirations.

You have the right to think about your options and make your own decisions about your career path. You are not obligated to continue the family business if it does not align with your goals and values.

Be sensitive and thoughtful, but not at the expense of your own feelings.

It’s important to approach this decision-making process with sensitivity and thoughtfulness.

You may need to have difficult conversations with family members about your desire to pursue other career options, but it’s important to communicate your perspective clearly and honestly.

Consider the long-term implications.

If you choose to leave the family business, how will it impact the rest of the family and the future of the enterprise?

Are there ways to address your concerns while still contributing to the business in a way that is meaningful for you?

It’s OK to disappoint people.

Ultimately, the decision to stay or leave the family business should be yours to make.

It’s okay to disappoint people, including those who have passed away, if it means pursuing a path that brings you fulfillment and happiness.

You can still honor the family legacy in other ways that are meaningful to you.

Don’t wait for the feeling to go away.

If it keeps coming up in your mind that you are not sure you want to continue at your same capacity, the feeling will likely not go away. It will only get stronger. (Ask me how I know!)

You’ll need to address it at some point – and sooner is better than later. Don’t let fear keep you from doing it. It’s your life and the clock is ticking.

Some questions to help you gain clarity and perspective

Feeling like you have limited options? Not sure what you want? Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What are my personal goals and aspirations, and how do they align with the family business?
  • What are the long-term implications of my decision to continue on or leave the family business, and how will it impact me and my family?
  • Am I feeling pressure from family members to continue in the family business, and if so, how can I communicate my perspective to them?
  • What are the pros and cons of continuing in the family business, and how do they weigh against my personal goals and values?
  • Are there other ways to honor the family legacy and contribute to the family business without directly working in it?
  • Am I willing to take the risk of pursuing my own career path, even if it means disappointing family members or not living up to their expectations?
  • How can I approach this decision-making process with sensitivity and thoughtfulness, while also prioritizing my own needs and desires?

By asking yourself these questions and considering your personal goals, values, and priorities, you can gain clarity and perspective on your decision.

You are not alone.

Remember that it’s okay to take the time to explore your options and make a decision that is right for you.

If you’re feeling trapped in the family business, know that you’re not alone.

It can be a difficult and emotional journey, but there is help available.

As a family business advisor, I’m here to listen to your concerns, offer guidance, and help you navigate this complex and sensitive situation.

If you’re ready to take the next step and explore your options, I encourage you to schedule a confidential call with me. Book a Call with Brandi.

We can discuss your situation in depth, identify potential solutions, and create a plan of action that aligns with your personal goals and values.

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