Ending Working Relationship with Family

I just fired my daughter.

For the last couple years, I have employed my daughter Madeline to do some of the back office work here at Aspire For. I’ve never been a detail-oriented salesperson and would much rather be on the phone selling, supporting and building relationships, than staring at a computer screen and moving data from one database to another.

So, I sought help with the busywork and found Madi.

She started out fine and picked things up quickly. Madi is very bright. If she messed up, got lazy, or was a “no-show,” I cut her some extra slack. That’s what you do for family.

When the quality of her work deteriorated, however, the question of just how much slack I should cut her became an issue and a talking point. We actually had some very good conversations, but the problems persisted. Finally, I grew tired of having the same conversation with her and seeing the same results and made the decision to end our employer/employee relationship before it further impacted our father/daughter relationship.

Is there anything more difficult in a family business than working with family members?

On paper, the family business is an attractive concept. It looks like fun and, at the beginning, it usually is. I was married to a woman who was in a family business—petroleum—and for years would fall asleep at the dinner table while they droned on and on about the value of 93 octane. They never did learn to leave business at the office.

Madeline took the news well. In fact, I think she was relieved! She has another job, so money won’t be an issue for her. But I think she, too, saw the strain that her work was having on the two of us.

I wonder what she would say about me if she was writing this blog. Would she complained that I was tyrannical? Would she tell you that I will did not communicate my expectations very well? Would she comment that working for your father is a bad idea?

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • Been There- Done That!

    What a Hoot!
    This is where I made my living- turing around family-owned businesses.
    At least this guy had sufficient mental skills to recognize the importance of getting family members out of the business.

  • dan

    Thanks for the blog. I had to fire my son a few months ago after several years of "work." I’m convinced it was more painful for me than it was for him. He found work quickly (even in this economy.) In my case, I waited much too long and our father/son relationship is cordial but strained. My advice, whether it’s family or otherwise, is to hire slowly and fire quickly.

  • David

    When we hired my son, he reported directly and answered to my business partner. He was given no preference over any other employee. He worked hard smart, excelled and became one of our best. One day a client phoned and asked my permission to talk to my son with the intent of hiring him. Was a position that propelled his career. We hated to lose a star employee; but as his Dad, I could not have been more proud of him.

  • Ed Kish


    I am glad to see this post.
    This issue is always present everywhere. I have posted this on my wall and link it back to you. Here is my site http://www.relationshipsutra.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=131&action=edit&message=1


  • Thomas Larkin

    I’ve worked for a family business for over 20 years. I came here on request because of my knowledge of computers. I agree that working for a family company has it’s advantages as well as disadvantages. It’s not easy work to get the respect of fellow employees, but if you show you can do the job you are hired to do it pays off in the end. We are a company of 65+ employees and it’s been great. There have obviously been issues with regards to not being fired for missing work etc.. but it’s made up for with extra effort. I started on the floor as a grunt and learned each and every piece of equipment on our floor as well as being in customer service, sales, Design work and IT. Now we are learning the management aspect so the folks can retire and the three boys can take over. It’s a tough decision and it takes work, but it can be fun.