Is my Son-In-Law pulling his weight in my family business?
The way to answer this question is not as difficult as it deems. The owner must evaluate this person just as he or she would any other employee (remember – that’s all that he is). So let’s replace the single general question with nine more specific ones:
- Is this fellow an asset to the company?
- Has he shown any progress during the time that he has been with the company?
- Has he exhibited any leadership skills?
- Has he shown any willingness to do what it takes to move up in the company (other than of course marrying the owner’s daughter)?
- If conditions dictated that staff had to be cut, would this person be retained and someone who is far more important to the survival of the company be let go instead?
- If he was not a son-in-law would his performance be acceptable?
- If he was not a son-in-law would his attitude be acceptable?
- If he was not a son-in-law would he be considered upper-management material?
- When it comes time for the owner to step down, will this person have the ability to lead (or the potential to lead) the company – either alone or as part of a management team?
If the answer to most of these questions is “no” then the course of action is clear.
I’ll tell you right now, the owner’s first reaction will be “but he’s family!” The response to this is simple: “then he should act like family!” If anything, he should be working harder than other “family” members to prove that he belongs and that he is not just in it for himself.
If this situation is not dealt with quickly (one way or the other) then it is likely to come back and haunt the company and, if my experiences have taught me anything, this will most likely happen at the most inopportune time that one could imagine.
So – no, the overriding question is not difficult to answer, but sometimes owners have to hear it from someone else. Sometimes the only “voice of reason” families will listen to will be that of an outsider. And sometimes an extra set of eyes is the only way for families to see what is right in front of them.
This is one of those times.