Where do I fit in?

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Non-Family Members in the Family Business

As you may know, Revela is a family business. Our founder, Wayne Nielsen, started this business (among other companies) so that it would be around for his grandchildren’s grandchildren. We’re a smaller family business, but we do business across the United States. Family businesses come in all sizes. We work with a few in different industries: banking, manufacturing and distributing, transportation, and other business services.

Family business owners often contemplate who will take over the business when they retire. Revela is now owned by Wayne’s daughter, Andrea Fredrickson. Actually, many owners consider their family members as first options. Leadership teams may consist of spouses, siblings, children, cousins, etc. All the same people that sit around the table at Thanksgiving dinner. But as a non-family member in a family business, sometimes you have to wonder… Where do I fit in?

Sometimes in family businesses, there are non-family employees who feel family members are entitled. They believe that no matter their skill set, those family members will always trump other employees. They watch as family members get promotion after promotion; and all the while, they’re sitting and stewing about it. They’re telling their peers. And then they begin keeping score.

“As a non-family member in a family business, sometimes you have to wonder… Where do I fit in?”


This vicious cycle is a hard one to stop. But as a non-family member in a family business, I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve worked in a family business for eight years. And I have seen the involvement of each and every family member. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t take ownership of this business too. That doesn’t mean that I can’t believe in the cause.

We partner with some very successful family businesses, and within those are some very successful people. Non-family members who have worked hard demonstrated their values and showcased their skills. Non-family members who believe in the cause. And those non-family members are absolutely indispensable.

Not only do those individuals bring valuable skillsets to the table, but they also bring outside perspectives. They cause owners to think outside the box. They challenge people. And they bring about change.

So if you’re like me, a non-family member in a family business, here are some things to keep in mind:

Get on board or get out.

Yes, I meant that. If you don’t hold the same values as the company, maybe it’s not the right fit for you. If you don’t believe in the mission and vision, how can you support it? Regardless of who owns the business, you need to make sure you are there for all the right reasons; otherwise, you’ll never take ownership of your work. And you’ll never believe in the cause.

Put the family drama aside.

Okay, so you don’t get an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner. Big deal. Stop labeling family members as “entitled” or “privileged.” If that’s what you believe, you’re only going to continue keeping score.


That’s right. Be happy that your boss doesn’t know about the argument you had with your spouse last night. Embrace the fact that you are different. Take it and run with it. Bring different perspectives to the table. You can bring valuable suggestions and ideas with your outside experience.

Show them what you’re made of.

The way successful people make themselves indispensable inside a family business is no different than the way they do it in any other business. Instead of stewing that the owner’s daughter got another promotion, why not focus on building your own skills? Set a goal for yourself, then work to achieve it. Trust me, it won’t go unnoticed.

Figure out where you want to go…and get there.

What skills do you bring to the table? What do you enjoy doing? Or what makes you unique? Ask for a meeting with your manager to discuss your future in the company. Figure out a plan. Define the skills you need to learn. List the experiences you need to have. Many employees just assume their managers know what they want, but if you don’t have the conversation, how could they know? Take it upon yourself to start your own career development. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.

Yes, you can believe that family members will always trump you. You can believe they are entitled. But you don’t have to. In reality, they want to prove themselves just as bad as you do. They want to show why they deserve to be there. And they bring valuable skills to the table…just like you.

So if you’re a non-family member in a family business, instead of stewing about not being a part of the family, why don’t you start figuring out…Where do you fit in?

Looking for more on family businesses? Check out this article!

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