Is It Time to Leave the Family Business? To Go or Not to Go

When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex declared their intention to "step back" from royal duties in favor of greater freedom, they made headlines.

The declaration came as a shock to the people, who were left wondering what had happened and what this meant for the monarchy's future.

Despite the fact that the British monarchy is more well-known than most family "businesses," the problems that occur when a family member wishes to leave the company are not uncommon.

Working in the family business can be a wonderful blessing for certain people. For others, it's a life sentence with no hope of release.

Ownership in the family company is more of a responsibility than a joy for those who feel stuck in it. The lack of corporate process and structure overshadows the independence that their family business provides.

“Should I continue managing my family wealth and business at this point or should I go separate ways?”.

Many members of families that shareassets must face this question at some point, though far too often, they wait until they’re forced to face this, such as when a conflict or crisis hits.

Apart from the case of Harry and Meghan leaving the royal family business, are there any other similar cases? What should family business owners do when having dilema leaving their family business? Find the answer in the article below.

Leaving Family Business

If you're considering quitting the family company, be honest with yourself about why you want to do so. Are you looking for a new opportunity or a way out of a tough situation? Although there are many cases in which it is preferable to exit, the manner in which you do so is especially difficult and crucial. Spend some time thinking about the following questions:

Take time to ponder the following questions:

  1. Why did you join the family business in the first place?  
  2. Were you inspired to work alongside your family, eager to share the experience of growing the family business—or did you feel obligated to join the business in order to please your family?
  3. Was the company ever a clear personal calling for you, a way for you to realize your professional ambitions?
  4. Or did you feel obligated to your family (or that you owed them the job)?
  5. When your job isn't satisfying you, it's a good idea to consider what led you to that position in the first place. What were your expectations for this job?

Do you think your initial career vision was practical, now that you have the advantage of hindsight? What has met and exceeded your hopes and aspirations, and what hasn't?


Susi had been working at her family's company for 15 years before she realized she wasn't really following her dream.

While her dad did not pressure her to come into the business, she knew he wanted her there, and Susi was excited by the prospect of working side by side with him.

Over the years Susi has realized that she is not really suited to this kind of work, so she feel like a square peg in a round hole around here.

A family member may become aware of a desire to pursue a new career or start a new company. When this is the case, due thinking and consideration are also needed to understand the consequences of the decision and find ways to make the change mutually beneficial for all parties involved.  For example, the family might assist one of its members in launching a new entrepreneurial venture in a vacant building owned by the family, resulting in a win-win situation.

Evaluate Options.

If you're on the verge of making a major decision, take a deep breath and carefully weigh your options before making any rash decisions. Such rashness would tarnish your reputation within the company and within the family.

1. Compare your vision to your family’s vision

If you believe in a company's long-term vision, it's a key factor in determining whether it's right for you (whether it's your family business or not). This vision is shaped collectively by the owners of a family company.  It can be difficult to get a diverse set of viewpoints into perfect harmony, but it's critical to get the broad strokes correct because the board and management can use them to formulate the company's plan.

Examine if you and the other shareholders have the same vision for the company. If you're on the same page, you can test difficult decisions against your common vision to see if they're on the right track. If you aren't, remaining in the family business will always be a struggle, and you may be better off looking for work elsewhere.

2. Identify your deal-breakers

In industry, it's common to have differing viewpoints. Emotions and family dynamics amplify these viewpoints of family businesses. You'll need to learn how to share authority with the rest of your family members involved in the company if you want to have a long-term future in a family business. Make the most important choices first, and then let the rest go.

Examine what's making you want to flee, and then categorize the causes into what you can manipulate or alter vs. what you'll have to deal with (or not). Consider if your differing viewpoint on how the company should be managed is actually a deal-breaker. Individual tactical decisions are more often than not brought into focus over time and lose their immediate fight-or-flight reaction, but a significant strategic change or a trend of getting your viewpoint overruled is worth fighting for diplomatically.

3. Find and leverage mentors to guide you

An experienced mentor who can have a neutral viewpoint to help steer your career without the prejudices of a family member or the obstacles that an in-house HR department would encounter in evaluating the next family leader is an invaluable resource when you're in a family business. An impartial board chairman, a senior executive who can be objective, or even someone who is not directly linked to the family business but knows enough to contribute can all be good mentors.

Request an accurate evaluation of your developmental status and what you'll need to do to reach your objectives from your mentor. Communicate with your mentor on a regular basis (at least twice a year, with a more in-depth check-in every three years) and ask for their assistance in keeping you on track with your objectives.  A successful mentor can also help you redefine success so you aren't solely focused on being the next CEO of your business.

4. Make the best choice for you, but be cautious about how you articulate it.

If you decide to quit your day-to-day job in the company to try another endeavor after careful thought, consider how to do so with integrity while maintaining family relationships.

To avoid being seen as leaving in a huff, make sure you have a straightforward exit tale to communicate internally and externally.

Make a strategy for what you want to do next and share it with your family before it gets published in the company newsletter.

After all, even though you are no longer an employee, you are almost certainly still a shareholder (or will be in the future). Consider how your departure could affect your overall job.

When you've stepped away from day-to-day activities, can you still be an effective owner and work with the other family owners to control the company?

If you decide to stay in the family business, be transparent about why you're staying and what you plan to achieve by doing so. The issues that brought you to this point of anger are unlikely to go away until you fix them.

Consider a strategy for dealing with the main concerns.

  • Are you in the correct position?
  • Do you have enough guidance and support?
  • What changes are needed to make staying a viable and pleasurable option?
  • Examine your progress on a daily basis. Keep track of your progress toward big achievements and your long-term career objectives.

There is more than one right way to have an influence on the family business, remain close to your family, and have a satisfying career, as Harry and Meghan will discover as they carve out their progressive new positions in the British monarchy.

Consider Lord Jacob Rothschild, a descendant of Europe's most illustrious banking family. He left the flagship N. M. Rothschild bank and established RIT Capital Partners after a dispute about the path the family firm was going.

His decision appeared risky at the time, but RIT is now one of the largest investment trusts in the UK, and Jacob has had a distinguished career. He's a billionaire in his own right, and he's recently formed a joint venture with Edmond de Rothschild Group and RIT Capital, bringing him back into the family fold.

His experience demonstrates that there are numerous ways to manage your position in the family business.


There are various ways to make an impact on the family business, stay close to family, and still have a fulfilling career. Leaving the family company is not always a bad decision when properly considered. Re-evaluate the four options you have before making the decision to leave the family company.

Hesitating to stay or go? Hear from another perspective, click this link to join the Indonesian Family Business Community

The Indonesian family business community consists of dozens of family business practitioners who have a mission to develop their business for more than 3 generations and break the curse of 3 generations in the family business.

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