Kirby Wu of Wu & Associates described some of the upsides and downsides of working in a family business as a ‘mixed bag’. The upsides include working as a family team, building wealth and keeping it in the family, providing opportunities to family members, and potential for high level of trust. In contrast, the downsides are not being able to work cooperatively, deciding what’s fair in the wealth sharing amongst family members, taking on risk for the entire family, letting go of non-optimal performers, and separating personal goals from work goals. Kirby also discussed the family dynamics that can be beneficial when it comes to operating family owned businesses: you must be able to communicate in a way that leaves out personal relationships, “business is business”, there must be a final decision maker, and subordinate family members must respect that there is a hierarchy. Apart from internal struggles, external perceptions can also affect a family owned businesses. These perceptions include fighting the idea of nepotism, discovering and maintaining your own identity, and empowering employees to give feedback without fear of retaliation because of familial ties. Overall, for a family business to grow, Kirby states that family members must be able to trust and delegate to non-family members. In the same sense, to keep other staff happy and willing to stay in the business, there must be a fair opportunity, for all to grow within the company. Most importantly, its never to early to talk about succession planning.
Evelyn Kim is the CEO of U.S. Metro Group, which is a privately held company with more than 1500+ employees and annual sales of more than 40 million dollars. Evelyn is following in her father’s footsteps who founded the company after arriving in the United States ‘to pursue the American Dream’. She described how her dad’s character has influenced the company culture. Her father’s small minority business had to overcome the difficulties of competing against major corporations, which would sometimes monopolize the facilities contract market. Evelyn explains that this experience has influenced the company to have the mindset of giving back to others and the desire to help minority vendors. With this, US Metro Group has employed individuals and small companies needing work. The individuals who are employed at US Metro have been there for over 15 years and they have a diverse group of clients, including CVS, PNC, the Home Depot, Sears, and Vince. Evelyn has started to discuss the idea of succession with her brother as she hopes he will follow in her footsteps and keep the business in the family.