What It Means To Work For Your Parents

recite-l18tjeSince my Mom started her law practice in Toronto, I have been working with her every so often. I’ve heard people say both things – it’s better to work with your parents because you learn more and also that it’s better to work for others because they’re more likely to treat you as an employee.

It’s amazing as I think back to how my approach has changed over the years. Initially, I never wanted to include my work experience at my mom’s firm on my resume – in fact, I was told not to by employment agencies because it was apparently not considered ‘real work’. It was only after graduating from university and entering the tech and startup scene did I begin to fight that urge of downplaying my experiences. Needless to say, I was under the wrong impression – whether it was because of my own insecurities or misunderstandings or because of how we perceive things as a society. I realized that whoever said to me that working for my parents’ business was not ‘real work’ was wrong.

Naturally, there are pros and cons to both but if you’re open minded, you could benefit a lot from working for your family business. In fact, working for a family business can be even more ‘real work’ than another job. Technically, you never really leave work and even vacation ends up being intertwined with work-related conversations. Your ‘boss’ is there when you wake up, when you’re eating dinner at home and when you’re driving to a family get together. Our minds are always running and the smallest idea could lead to pausing that movie you’re watching on a Saturday afternoon.

Over the past few years, I started realizing how insanely difficult it is to run your own business. Until recently, I was only focused on assisting with legal work – which is hard enough as it is. But as I became more involved, I realized that as sole practitioners, my parents had to do everything from providing professional services, to hiring, business development and even ordering stationary (and of course the list included raising and supporting us)!

iced capYou can turn the opportunity into whatever you’d like, which is rare for many jobs. The kind of ‘work’ I was assigned ranged from getting iced cappuccinos for everyone, to photocopying and binding, going to court for a family law matter and leading business development. It not only has been an educational experience for me but one that was humbling as well. When you go down the path of entrepreneurship, you truly come to learn that no task is beneath you – and I’m sure anyone who has even peeked down this path would agree. But I feel that as we attend fancy schools or go up the ladder in an organization, we tend to forget this… and we shouldn’t.

The list of skills and experiences I’ve gained through working with my family is endless so I won’t bore you with it. The one ‘skill’ however, that I do want to mention is patience. I love my parents and there is absolutely no doubt about it. But you come to learn the true meaning of patience when you work and live with your family – all at the same time!

So I guess here’s what I’m trying to convey through my long-winded story:

  1. If you’re fortunate enough to have parents who own a family business, take full advantage of it. It may seem like a lot of boring work in the beginning and possibly not as much fun as working elsewhere, but it will be very rewarding.
  2. Don’t feel the need to downplay the work you’ve done with your family or listen to any employment agencies that might say you should. And definitely don’t feel like you’re not doing ‘real work’ in comparison to your friends (I felt like that for a while and I was wrong).

While working with my parents, I learned what makes a good employee, a great colleague and an even better manager.

Thanks Mom and Dad :)