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View Full Version : The perils of working for the in-laws



DiscoStu
02-16-2009, 11:09 PM
I know that's a very broad, sort of all encompassing statement, but it is only my experience that I can speak from. So as some of you may remember from my other forum ramblings, I accepted an offer to work for my in-laws business so they could begin to retire. Well, if any of you are interested in reading up on it, just go here (http://www.small-business-forum.com/showthread.php?t=53254) for the refresher.

Here I am 3 years in to this challenging situation and I find myself no closer to having an active role in this company than when I first walked through the doors. I have lost all, and I mean all respect for my in-laws for reasons that are mostly on an ethical basis. Oh, and not to mention the fact that my marriage has suffered tremendously. I can't even begin to illustrate my level of frustration with this entire situation that I find myself in. And the word from the in-laws is that they are going to have to work 10 more years to recoup what they lost in the market. If the economy wasn't in the tank, then I would walk away and take my chances finding something else. We are supposed to have a meeting this week to update where things are in the company and just where we are in this never ending retirement process. I will post what happens once we have this meeting.

I thought about purchasing a franchise and even worked with a franchise consultant for about a month and a half. Through him I spoke with 3 franchises only to become very gun shy as the economy began taking center stage prior to the election. I was just about to begin the discovery process with the last franchise when I decided that I simply could not take a financial risk and invest $60-75k right now in this economic climate.

vangogh
02-17-2009, 02:49 AM
Ouch. Sorry to hear about the problems. You're brave for having worked with family in the first place. It's often bad to go into business with family because it's difficult to separate the business issues and the family issues.

It doesn't seem like this would be a good time to walk away, but maybe it's time to prepare for when the economy picks up again. Set yourself up with other options and then talk to your in-laws and let them know what your understanding was when you joined the business. Let them know that your goal was to take over the business, but that you aren't willing to wait 10 years to make that happen and so you're leaving the business.

The conversation will be tricky since you aren't going to want to hurt anyone. You could say you think your relationships with them and your marriage is suffering and that family is more important than business.

Of course having other options will make the whole thing easier so that should probably be your focus at first. Even if other opportunities aren't there now they will be again and you can prepare for their arrival.

Steve B
02-17-2009, 07:37 AM
Hi Discostu - welcome to the new forum.

I remember that thread very well. It may be a stretch to find a bright side, but here it is from my opinion. It doesn't sound like you have as much to lose by walking away now. Take control of your future and find something else (although I wouldn't recomend a franchise ... but that's another story). It sounds like delivering pizza would be an improvement.

greenoak
02-17-2009, 06:08 PM
hi...i remember that too.... cant wait to hear the resolution!!! ann

SteveC
02-17-2009, 08:06 PM
If I was in your position I think I would even now be actively looking for a job, this situation you are in appears to have no end and no resolution (if you are expecting one at your meeting you are fooling yourself... how many so called meetings and resolutions have you had), so the sooner you remove yourself from the situation you are in to something that you like and love the sooner your life will start to look better.

Dan Furman
02-17-2009, 10:29 PM
I have lost all, and I mean all respect for my in-laws for reasons that are mostly on an ethical basis. Oh, and not to mention the fact that my marriage has suffered tremendously.

I would quit. Right now. No job is worth your marriage.

edit: unless, of course, quitting would make her angry.

kml9870
02-19-2009, 07:48 AM
I don't envy you DiscoStu. I have been in a similar situation to yours and made it out the other end. My in-laws have been in the carnival business since the early 70's and my husband worked for them when I first met him. It was always supposed to be that my hubby took over eventually. My father-in-law was extremely tyrannical. There always ended being something he found to pick at.

At more than one point my father-in-law has bought trailers and offered them to us to run only to change his mind. It took over 10 years of the roller coaster/tug of war before we finally freed ourselves from the cycle.

Talk to your wife. Be completely open with her on how this is making you feel. You have to put your marriage first. If your marriage is open, supportive and strong you will survive this. Don't put your wife in the position of choosing you over her parents, but let her know what the situation is doing to you. Make a decision on how to handle it together. Leaving the business may be best and it may hurt your relationship with your in-laws but family tends to heal with time.

I can't say that my relationship with my in-laws is fantastic, loving and supportive, but my relationship with my husband is. We have had nothing to do with their business for more than 8 years now. It looks like the business will end when my father-in-law completely retires, but that was his choice.

DiscoStu
02-19-2009, 09:11 PM
I'm not ignoring any of the comments or questions that have been made thus far, but I do want to let everyone know about the meeting that we had this morning.

Attending were the in-laws, Steve (my brother-in-law that also married into the family), and me. Essentially we were told that they were going to have to work maybe 10 more years because of the money they lost in the market and the current recession. So we were asked if we still wanted to do this and have been given 30 days to let them know if we are committed. They need a concrete answer, not one where we say yes now only to back out later because that will definately piss them off. You know, the irony here is that that is what they have done. They have not followed through with anything and when we are able to get them to give us an answer, it is prefaced with "don't hold me to anything because it may change tomorrow".

I asked if we were to follow through with this, at what point would Steve and I have ownership in the company. The answer....we won't have ownership, the company will be put in our wives names at some point waaaaay down the road. Not what Steve and I wanted to hear.

I asked why they wanted to retire when they pretty much only work half time, yet retain full control of all aspects of the company. Their answer was to remove themselves from the stresses of running the company on a daily basis. I replied that they could begin to alleviate themselves of that if they so choose. They did not like my reply.

I know, I know, for those that followed my story a year ago it sounds exactly the same. Well, unfortunately it is the same. The only difference is that I have the "I don't give a :eek:" attitude. That attitude has freed me from the anger that was eating at me for over a year.

I am looking for a job or other opportunity as hard as I ever have before. I am doing all but walking away, which I simply can't do from a personal financial standpoint.

If I can offer any advice to anyone at all, it would be to learn from my experience and really, really think about the repercussions of working in a family business.

Steve B
02-19-2009, 09:18 PM
Thanks for the update. I'm curious, does you wife know you're looking for another opportunity?

vangogh
02-19-2009, 10:29 PM
Thanks for the update Stu. I don't envy your position, but I think you're going to find a way to come out of it ok. Is the idea that you're going to stay in the family business for now, but keep looking for something else until you find it?

How will your wife feel about you leave the family business?

Your in-laws don't sound like nice people.

SteveC
02-19-2009, 10:51 PM
Here is a tip, instead of treating this business as your own as you were... treat it just like any other job, work the hours you need and leave all the stress to the now entrenched owners... use your family ties to your advantage this time... in other words play them at their own game... but this time your the employee and they are in charge... accept this and then use it.

DiscoStu
02-23-2009, 08:47 PM
I'm curious, does you wife know you're looking for another opportunity?
She sure does and she encourages me to do so.


Is the idea that you're going to stay in the family business for now, but keep looking for something else until you find it?

How will your wife feel about you leave the family business?

Your in-laws don't sound like nice people.
Yes, as of right now it looks like I'm going to have to stay. The job market is slim in my area and my wife doesn't want to move. So unless I develop something to do on my own or find something else, this is the hand that I'll play.

My wife would love nothing more than for me to leave. She and I have been through a good bit of turmoil over this and both agree that they should sell the company while I move on.

And you are right, they are really not nice people. All is fine as long as you don't go against them. Once that happens, you have stepped across the line and are labeled as "difficult" or "making things complicated". Go figure.


Here is a tip, instead of treating this business as your own as you were... treat it just like any other job, work the hours you need and leave all the stress to the now entrenched owners... use your family ties to your advantage this time... in other words play them at their own game... but this time your the employee and they are in charge... accept this and then use it.
I need to buy you a beer or two.:D That is the exact philosophy that I have taken in the past month and is working like a charm. I felt I needed to prove myself to them earlier, but now realize that I'll never live up to their expectations for running the business...hence my new attitude.

I have been compiling a few thoughts since the meeting for Steve and I to discuss. We both think that the only way for this to work is for the inlaws to sell, possibly to us, and get them out of the mix. If they don't want to sell to us, then I really don't see how this will work given the stipulations they continue to put in front of us. I know, some of you may be asking why even bother. Mainly because this company has a solid foundation that is just screaming to be built on. Steve and I both have the same vision, we just need the opportunity.

Steve B
02-23-2009, 09:01 PM
Please put me in the "why even bother" category.

Actually, put me in the "are you crazy?!?!" category. You should be RUNNING away from this situation not waiting around hoping it will change. It's not worth the turmoil. There are other opportunities out there that won't cause you years and years of stress and heartache and possibly end your marriage - why not go for one of them!

vangogh
02-23-2009, 10:11 PM
I would have quit by now too even if there wasn't another job available. I've never been able to work in a situation where I wasn't happy. However that's me. You should do what's best for you.

One thing I would say is to use how your feeling as motivation to find another job or develop something of your own. It's hard to work all day, particularly when it's emotionally draining, and have energy to do more work like finding another job. Remind yourself that every day you don't do something to find a better job is another day you'll have to work in this one.

greenoak
02-24-2009, 07:03 AM
sounds like you are in an even worse position now....if they know you are looking for other work and not finding it that shows you arent totally onboard with the job you have.....
i wouldnt want to have someone working for me who was looking for another job....and i sure wouldnt want someone working for me who thought i was unfair.....
more than your inlaws they are your boss, the write your paycheck....
its not a very respectful relationship to put it mildly...
.thanks for sharing..
.obviously, nows a bad time to job hunt....but thats sure what i would try to do ...
ann

DiscoStu
02-25-2009, 08:33 PM
Brutal honesty...I like it. You guys are right on so many levels that I'm actually starting to feel a bit embarrassed about the situation.

Like I said before I began looking at franchises only to become frustrated with that. I continue to search for other jobs and even ownership (be it start-up or purchasing) as well. Since I have been searching for the better part of a year, my frustration level of finding a job is pretty elevated. My wife has asked me to sit down and list the things that I am looking for in a job to remind me what I want. So, I guess I'll sit down and do that to get some clarification and possible direction in what I want to do.

Now that I have been able to cope more with my mother's illness, this should be easier than before. I tell you, it really is amazing just how much you can put up with in your own personal life while trying to do all you can to help your family through a tough situation.