What is the Importance of Loyalty in a Family Owned Business?

Business Leader Post, February 27, 2013

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Ask Fredo from The Godfather series. I am kidding, but I am not kidding. Families, when they feel betrayed, terminate relationships. They stop talking to each other, or they talk to each other through lawyers.

I totally agree with the idea that you should keep conflicts within the family and try to work it out between and amongst yourselves. Loyalty, in that sense is not just to other family members, but also to the values and principles of the family. Everybody knows what those values and principles are. You don’t even have to mention them.

But what about your loyalty to yourself and to what is best for you? Sometimes it can feel like there is a conflict between your loyalty to the business and your loyalty to yourself. No family member wants another family member to be unhappy. If you are unhappy in the family business, you owe it yourself, and you owe it to your family to be honest about it. You have to trust your family members enough to believe that they will understand; and that if you have to leave the business, that they will let you go.

Loyalty does not mean self-sacrifice. When it comes to relationships in family businesses, self-sacrifice can lead to resentment and conflict. It is an overrated value.