Many family businesses rely on family members to fill their staff rosters and keep the doors open. But when and how should your children be added to the payroll? Here are some considerations in deciding your kids’ role in the family business.

Should Teens Work in the Family Business?

Many parents worry about putting their adolescent children to work at their company. You may hope that your family business will be part of the legacy you leave to your children in the future, but what about today? Are you putting too much pressure on your teens by giving them a role at the company, or are you cultivating interest in a life-long career?

Of course, the answer depends on many factors:

  • The type of business you run
  • Your child’s maturity, strengths, and challenges
  • Whether your teen is interested in working with you
  • Family schedules, including school and extracurricular commitments
  • The workplace culture and how it will change by introducing the “boss’s kid”
  • The company’s budget

One study suggests bringing teens into the family business can improve your relationship with them as a parent. It may also ward off depression.

There is also much to be gained from employment outside the company. By working for someone else, your children can learn how to separate personal and professional issues and avoid favoritism at work.

It is important for your kids to know you welcome them joining the family business and look forward to working with them but be careful not to cross the line into coercion. Discuss working in the family with your teen as an option, rather than a mandate.

Choosing Your Kids’ Starting Position

As a parent, you want to believe the best of your children. They’re smart enough, strong enough, and good enough for anything life will throw at them. However, as a business owner, you need to be practical and realistic in identifying the skills your kids have when they start working for you.

It is appropriate for your kids’ starting positions to be at the ground level of your business. Not only will this help them develop the skills a business owner needs, it will also signal fairness to your non-relative employees. If you are starting your children young, pay particular attention to their skills and maturity:

  • Can they handle money responsibly?
  • Are they mature enough to interact with your customers?
  • Do they have the attention span to review documents?
  • Are they detail-oriented enough to maintain a filing system?

As with any new employee, a skills assessment can help you identify your teenager’s strengths, interests, and challenges, to help you choose a starting position that is right for them and for your business.

Get Help Planning Your Kids’ Role in the Family Business


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Promotion or Nepotism: When is It Right to Increase Your Kids’ Role?

As your children get older, mature, and possibly go to college, their skills will change and increase, as will their role in the company. Your kids will want to feel acknowledged through promotions and increased responsibility. You may also be eager to have them step into leadership roles and eventually take over the business.

But promoting a family member too soon can cause stress and conflict for everyone in the workplace. You may find yourself working overtime to correct your children’s mistakes, and that can breed resentment. Your children, who want to be good at their jobs, will also feel the stress of not living up to expectations. Meanwhile your other employees may see your choice to promote your child as self-interested nepotism, rather than wise business strategy.

Once again, skills assessments and professional coaching can help. A business consultant can evaluate your children, helping you to know when to promote them to the next level. Your kids can then work with a leadership coach to develop the skills their new position requires, and meet their coworkers’ expectations, rather than relying on their connection to you, the business owner, to justify their position.

Building your kids’ role in the family business can be empowering and intimidating, all at once. But working with a business consultant can help you meet your children where they are and encourage them to grow into the leaders you want them to be.


David Stanislaw is an organizational development specialist with over 30 years’ experience helping family business owners with business succession planning and leadership coaching. Contact us to meet with David to start developing your kids’ role in your business today.