The Pros and Cons of Working For a Family-Owned Company


Everyone’s job hunt is different. 

Some start looking because they’ve recently been let go. Others have needs that simply aren’t being met in their current role. Others still start this journey as a means of relocation, searching for the change of scenery they’ve craved. 

Regardless of your reason for starting it, your job hunt will be unique. 

As you know (or will soon find out), on certain days, looking for a job can feel really exciting — like you’re turning over a new leaf and getting closer to becoming a better version of yourself. Depending on your circumstances, however, (and how urgently you need a new job) searching for a job can also be really stressful. 

Whether you’ve been looking for a while now or are just getting started, eventually, you’ll want to consider what type of organization (private, public, employee-owned, family-owned, etc.) fits you best

Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) is a third-generation family-owned trucking company. Although we’ve grown substantially since our incorporation in 1955, ATS is still owned, operated and directed by the family that founded it in 1955. 

After nearly 70 years in business, we’ve hired thousands of people here at ATS. Many of these employees have thrived under our family-owned structure, thoroughly enjoying the advantages that come with it. That said, sometimes people haven’t enjoyed working here as much as others, opting instead to pursue employment at a private, public or employee-owned organization. You’ll find more information about working for these kinds of companies below:

In this article, you’ll learn more about the pros and cons of working for a family-owned organization. Keep these insights in mind as you decide what kind of organization to pursue. Often, your experience as an employee comes down to whether your organization is public, private, employee-owned and/or family-owned. 

Below, we’ve broken down this topic as follows:

What is a Family-Owned Company?

A family-owned company is a business that’s owned, directed and operated by members of a single family. Often, these companies were founded by an individual or group from the family that currently controls their interest. In most cases, family-owned companies are passed from one generation to the next. 

Family-owned companies can vary greatly in size — from small shops with a handful of employees to multinational corporations. 

Larger family-owned organizations may even feature a board of directors, dedicated to driving strategy and decision-making for the company. These boards are usually compiled of people within the family as well as those outside of it. At the end of the day, however, the founding family (and its members) make most final decisions. 

What is Unique About Working For a Family-Owned Business? 

Compared to working for a public or private organization, working for a family-owned business can be a unique experience. Unlike a publicly traded company, where decisions are made by an external board of directors, family-owned businesses are often run by the family members themselves. 

Family-owned businesses usually have a strong sense of tradition and history. Many of these businesses have been around for generations, and the owners may be very invested in preserving the company's legacy and values. This can lead to a culture of loyalty and commitment among employees.

Additionally, it’s not uncommon for family-owned companies to be staples of their communities, injecting their dollars made back into the communities they serve. Often, employees feel a sense of pride for their work and the way it benefits the larger locale. 

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What Are the Benefits of Working for a Family-Owned Company?

If you’re looking for a job that offers a sense of community within its walls where you feel valued every day, a great family-owned company might be perfect for you. 

Unlike larger, privately held or public organizations, it’s uncommon to feel like “just a number” when working for a family company — most of them really value their employees. Beyond this, three distinct benefits of working for a family-owned business are:

  1. The personal relationships you build with management
  2. The speed to make decisions
  3. The opportunities for advancement

These are all important parts of a healthy workplace that fulfills and supports those within it. Let’s talk a bit further about the pros of working for these companies (over their alternatives). 

1) The Personal Relationships You Build With Management

You’ll build great relationships with your colleagues regardless of the type of company you work for. That said, family-run businesses offer everyone unique access to the leadership within them. Since family-owned businesses are often run by the family members themselves, this can lead to a more personal and intimate work environment, as employees may have direct access to the owners and decision-makers

These are the people running the show, making the tough decisions for everyone under their care. 

Employees can build relationships with them, and other members of the business, easily, which can lead to a sense of community and belonging — this can be important for job satisfaction.


2) The Speed to Make Decisions

Family-owned businesses can often make decisions faster than larger corporations — namely public organizations that have outside shareholders to answer to. 

Though it’s not always the case, family-run companies may have fewer layers of management than other types of business. This means decisions can be made more efficiently. In turn, this is beneficial for the company as a whole, and individual employees, as no one is left in limbo while approvals are retrieved. 

Here are some examples of decisions a family-owned business may be quicker to make:

  • Investment in new technology or employee training programs
  • The creation of a new role or employee progression plan
  • Changes to the company’s strategic go-to-market strategy
  • Adding to or adjusting employee programs or offerings

Quick decisions made after their input can also lead to a greater sense of empowerment among employees, making them feel like their ideas are valued and the impact of their opinion is felt. 

3) The Opportunities for Advancement

By and large, family-run organizations are smaller than publicly traded — and sometimes employee-owned — companies. As a result, family operations have fewer employees, teams and managers. This often gives high-achieving employees the chance to take on more responsibility and move up the “ladder” quickly

Once you get your foot in the door at a great family-owned establishment, expect plenty of responsibilities to fall into your lap. This can be exciting for people who want to be a central piece of their company and grow alongside it for years to come. 

Beyond this, family-owned businesses are often more than willing to invest in their employees' training and development, recognizing the value of having highly-capable workers in every department. This can be a conduit for each individual's career growth, exposing them to industry-leading seminars, classes and education. 

What Are the Downsides of Working for a Family-Owned Organization?

While working for a great family-run company can be an excellent fit for many individuals — offering them career advancement opportunities, stable employment and fulfillment — it’s not for everyone. 

Before you unequivocally decide whether a family-owned organization is the right fit for you, here are three downsides to be aware of:

  1. The potential for limited diversity
  2. Limited financial resources
  3. The potential for emotional ties and decision making

1) The Potential for Limited Diversity

Family-owned businesses, particularly those passed down from generation to generation in the same area, may lack diversity in several ways. Since these businesses are operated by the same, or a very similar, group of people for a long time, it can be difficult for outsiders — regardless of their pedigree — to break into the family dynamic and gain positions

This can lead to a lack of diversity in thinking, strategy and background. While good family-run organizations recognize this potential and actively diversify, others may not, which can be frustrating for their employees. 


2) Limited Financial Resources

Compared to larger corporations — particularly those supported by public capital — family businesses may have fewer resources. This can make it more challenging for them to invest in new technologies, training programs, or other initiatives that could benefit the company and its employees. 

In addition, family-owned businesses are often more vulnerable to economic downturns, as they may not have the same financial cushion as larger companies. This, of course, depends on the stability and diversification of the family-owned business.

This isn’t to say that working for a family business means you’ll lose your job during tough times — many are growing and just look at the layoffs happening all around our nation right now in all types of companies. Instead, we’re simply pointing out the fact that (by and large) an under-resourced family-owned company is far less able to weather economic downturns than a large or highly-resourced company. This is true regardless of ownership.

3) The Potential for Emotional Ties and Decision Making

The family that owns the business is usually incredibly invested in it. This is a piece of their lifeblood and heritage, a central piece of their family’s history, passed from one generation to the next. For this reason, it’s probably more than just another business to them and they may have emotional ties to it that don’t exist in the leaders at other types of companies. 

In the end, these emotions may cloud their expectations of employees and decision-making in some scenarios. This can be frustrating for employees who don’t have the same emotional ties and is certainly worth noting.

So, Is a Family-Owned Business Right For You?

When deciding what type of business is right for you, there is a lot to consider. In this article, you learned about working for a family-owned business. Though there are several unique aspects of working for a family-run company, the respect they receive from their community — and the impact they make within it — is perhaps the most important to recognize. 

These companies are the cornerstone of the U.S. and make a measurable impression on the areas they operate in. Additionally, family-owned businesses are proud organizations that generally treat their employees with respect, invest in their development and care about their wellbeing. 

On the other hand, family-run organizations may be less financially stable than public organizations and can sometimes lack diversity — particularly if they only operate out of one location. 

These are all important factors to weigh as you decide whether to pursue a job with a family business. As a family-run business, ATS is happy to answer any questions you may have about working for a company like ours — don’t hesitate to contact us here

Don’t Hurt Your Chances of Landing Your Dream Job!

At the end of the day — regardless of the type of business you choose to work for — you deserve to do the kinds of work you’ve always dreamed of at a company you love. 

It’s important to ensure you’re given every opportunity to achieve this end. Unfortunately, however, there are a list of things job candidates do — sometimes inadvertently — that hurt their chances of landing the job of their dreams. 

To avoid making these mistakes, check out this article outlining 8 Things That Hurt Your Chances of Landing Your Dream Job. Don’t let these things get in your way — you have so much going for you. 

Tags: Career Resources

Ryan Baker

Written by Ryan Baker

Ryan started at ATS as a regional account representative within our specialized division in 2019. Over the years, Ryan's interpersonal skills and transportation expertise have helped him meet the needs of a diverse customer base across Minnesota and Wisconsin. A job in transportation is never boring, this is what Ryan enjoys most about working here as he strives each day to assist ATS' customers and his colleagues in any way he can.

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