The third step to navigating in-law in the family business is to avoid giving off the appearance that you are motivated by the opportunity to live on “easy street.”  If you see an opportunity to work in your spouse’s family business as just one of many options, and that the job in the family’s business is the best opportunity to fulfill the expression of your talents, strengths, capabilities, and training, then you may achieve success. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay with you, as you will just move on to the next best option.  This will position you to make an unreserved commitment to the mission of the business and the existing leadership, which will provide for you the highest probability of success.

On the other hand, if you see your job as a way to protect your spouse’s perceived share of the “golden goose,” the odds of success will be poor.  If your job with your spouse’s family business is merely a way of paying your spouse a fair share of the family business booty, you will be caught on the rotisserie and eventually your spouse’s siblings and other family members will turn up the heat and roast you alive.  If your heart and passion are not in the business and you simply see this as the easiest way through life, rest assured your paradise will soon turn into the inferno.

In essence, your success in your spouse’s family business will depend upon having pure motives and a high level of commitment to the cause of the business. If there is something else you can do and that you are passionate about, then go do it. If, on the other hand, because you are passionate about the family’s business, have developed skills that are needed by the business and really believe that you can’t pass up this opportunity, then, and only then, should you come in.

There are many potential landmines for in-laws in a family business environment. To navigate them successfully, keep the following simple steps that my postings have focused on this week: 

  1. Acknowledge your role as an in-law
  2. Understand the family’s unwritten laws
  3. Maintain pure motives regarding your involvement in your spouse’s family business.   

One last tip, to protect your vulnerable position as an in-law and avoid out-law status; seek as much written definition as possible regarding what is expected of you.

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