Wednesday, November 6, 2013

From simmer to boil

Seems like year-end causes plans to go from simmer to boil: You sit around simmering all year in the family business, thinking about leaving, when suddenly the year is over—or really one is beginning—and you start to boil, going into a must-leave-the-business-now mode.

I once read a study that talked about prison escapes. Do you know when prisoners are most prone to try and escape? You'd think sometime at the beginning of their term: with the prospect of spending years in prison, they would try and make a run for it, right? Wrong! Most escapes are attempted at the end of their terms! The psychology behind this is: they just can't take it anymore; they can smell the freedom, it's so close, and they just can't bear another day in jail. So they make a run for it (and in most cases fail).

Nope... boil is not the way to go!

Here's the thing: when a pot of water starts boiling, two things can happen: one, the bubbling water can overflow and put out the flame; and/or two, the water eventually evaporates, leaving you with an empty (burnt) pot.

In other words, don't make a run for it! That is something that the child does, not the responsible adult. Instead, plan it out carefully: figure out what you are going to do, what you want to become, what job is best for you. Start working on your CV and your LinkedIn profile. These steps will make the thought of leaving tangible—something that is actually doable and achievable— and it will build your confidence in the process of leaving. And then, and only then, you make your exit.

(By the way, simmer isn't a good option either. It too will eventually leave you with an empty, burnt pot... Better off making a decision either way.)


  1. I found your blog while searching for a way to explain why I left the family business in a job interview, without raising any red flags. I am glad I’m not the only one who had experienced those feelings while working in a family business, and more important, had the courage to leave.

    My case is a little different from yours; I had been working for a big company for the last 4 years. I felt very good in there, my boss and other managers gave me empowerment, responsibilities, and recognition for my achievements. The problem was that I couldn't get a promotion (or a raise) because of recent years budget cuts and the new management changes. And I needed one because of my recent engagement.

    Long story short I saw an opportunity in the family business and took it. I quit my job and joined my father's company early this year.

    The first months where ok, but as the year went by I started noticing that I had many responsibilities but no say in the decisions. Then I started taking salary cuts in order to pay family expenses (there was no clear difference between company and family money). So there I was, now earning even less than what make me quit my last job.

    There are so many textbook problems in my family business but I couldn't see them from the outside. Now that I'm in and I see there is no way of fixing this, I´m just trying to continue my career somewhere else, get a new job (one I actually like) as soon as possible.

  2. @TD thanks for sharing your story. Please feel free to reach out to me at

  3. Thank you for the blog.
    I have worked for my family business for 13 years from an insignificant position to a senior one. However I have never been appreciated for anything. I can't even go on a personal holiday without it being a fight with my parents they sulk and we don't talk for days. In the mean time they call me names and treat me badly in front of the other relatives.

    My wife also works with me. I tried to warn her but out of her good nature she chose to work at a much lower salary and longer hours thinking she would win my parents affection.

    Whenever we apply for our annual leave together, my parents get moody and emotionally blackmail my wife. She eventually backs down and so do I.

    I really want an out! Every time I tried I would be accused of being a traitor and heartless or my mother would become "ill" and it would be my fault. If all fails they access my wife for being the problem. How things were just fine before I married her.

    1. Hi @anonymous! Thanks for sharing your story. Happy to hear more. Email me at

  4. Get where your all coming from. Ive been in mine 26 years after 12 years happy working in london, came 'home' to help set it up cant believe im still there. Ive had part time jobs to feel normal as well as main job but seriously at the end of my tether now. Dont ever join your family business aaaargghh

  5. @unhappy I hear you. Please feel free to reach out directly: