Dad Won’t Let Go

Small Business

In our ongoing effort to share with you different perspectives on running a family business, we recently came across an interesting piece in another family business newsletter, Daughters In Charge, published by Amy Katz, Ph.d., a family business consultant with over 15 years experience in the field. One of her readers expressed to Dr. Katz her frustration in trying to get dad to understand that there are more important things in life than the family business. The question and Dr. Katz’s response are below.

Dear Amy:

My story is unique. When I stepped into the family tire/service business, I was the only girl in the field. My daily challenges were customers wanting to talk to a man because no women could know about vehicles or tires, but I have a unbelievable father who said to me “no matter what, you will succeed. It might be harder than it would be for a man, but I won’t let you fail.” He took me under his wing and we have worked side by side ever since. He turned 70 and decided he was going to retire again for the 10th time-that was a joke because he can’t let go of going into work every day. Now, my struggle is that I am 44 years old with two girls, ages 10 and 11, and my dad thinks work should come before family. How can I help him understand my kids come first without hurting his feelings?

Dr. Katz’s response:

You and your dad have worked together a long time, which tells me that he was able to manage work and family very well. And his belief in your talents and ability to handle some tough customer situations tells me that he knows how to be a supportive father AND businessman. He made a huge commitment to you by trusting you as his partner, and you have returned that commitment for several years.

So here are a few thoughts for you to consider:

First, your dad doesn’t sound like the kind of person whose feelings would be hurt if you explained that your girls come first. But he may need some time to understand what it’s like to be the mother of two girls. That’s an experience he’s never had! Talk with him outside of work and let him know what they’re telling you they need from you.

Second, you could remind him that because of the support and encouragement he gave you, you were able to take on responsibilities at the business and to work with him happily, “side by side,” for many years. Let him know that your relationship with your girls may in fact lead them to become involved in the business at some point, just as his relationship with you allowed YOU to work so well with him.

Third, you can talk about his concerns and hopes for the future of the business. In other words, how would he like to see it develop? How can the two of you develop it together? That may lead to some important conversations about your role as a leader who is as invested in the future of the business as he is.

Fourth, your dad may trust you so much that he can’t even consider hiring someone else to help out if you need some time off. You may need to tell him that hiring someone to work with you both might be a good idea-short term and long term.

Your girls won’t be 10 and 11 forever. This is an important time for them and for you. With a little education and some planning, I have the feeling your dad will understand.


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