Family owned sports organizations, by their nature, have an element of nepotism (i.e. family favoritism). Though its existence is viewed in a negative light, logically it makes sense. Whether your parents own and operate the local hardware store or cash flow a professional football franchise, the desire to keep their family close and see them succeed is always there. And, assuming their children educate themselves and show aptitude for success, most are catapulted to upper management positions preparing them to eventually run the business on their own. This natural cycle of a family run sports organization doesn’t diminish the chance for you, an outsider, to succeed at the company. If you’re considering a position within a sports team but top-level of management share a surname, don’t be deterred. Family owned businesses are more nurturing than publicly-held companies and, if you’re a loyal employee, you can more easily earn opportunities to learn new skills and try new roles.

Family owned means family goals. When a sports team has a private owner, motivates are usually about more than just the final number in a profit and loss statement. Public companies and large ownership groups are under immense pressure from investors to keep costs low, especially indirect ones that support the product on the field. While familial run franchises need to turn a profit, a billionaire answering to no one will spend more money on and off the field accepting a little less profit. It’s true that Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones hired his children to lead his executive staff. But he has also hired significantly in his ticket and operations departments, more than doubling the number of employees over the last two decades. And he has used his wealth to create new departments like Information Technology, Community Affairs, Stadium Development and Merchandising that could have otherwise been outsourced. His end goal remains to collect Super Bowl titles and adding support staff across the organization gives his coaches and players the information and comfortable environment to succeed. But the family atmosphere also lends itself to more charity work and out reach programs creating a host of new positions that may be considered “fluff” in a bottom line driven company. The goals put forth in this type of franchise lead to greater spending and a larger workforce contrasting the tight-fisted, bare bones approach of many ownership groups and public companies.

Family owned means establishing personal relationships. Whether a family owned business grosses revenues of $100 million or $100,000, it retains certain aspects of a small business. If it’s owned by a family with good values, its environment will be nurturing and management will respect fellow employees. Relatives in charge of the business select management that represents the team well. In turn, management is tasked with hiring employees that take on-the-field characteristics of a team and apply it to off-the-field roles. This should translate into better coworkers and a team-focused environment. Most managers at family owned businesses view employees as people instead of just resources and strive to develop personal relationships that make work days better. They spend time advancing their team’s careers and help everyone maintain a better work/life balance. Because fewer people are assigning out work in a small business environment, the chances of being overworked decrease significantly. And family companies are more inclusive when dealing with employees’ family members. The owner of a franchise works with his family everyday and clearly understands the desire to be around loved ones. Though you won’t bring your kids to the office on a daily basis, you can bet there will be family-oriented company gatherings throughout the year. Where many corporations keep costs low by limiting office parties to employees only, a family owned business will likely spend the extra cash to involve spouses and children. All of this isn’t to say public corporations are non-empathetic entities but you’re more likely to feel nurtured and at home in a family operated organization.

Family owned means plenty of growth opportunities. In a family business will you get the chance to replace the owner’s son as CFO? Probably not going to happen. But can you take a role within the accounting department and advance your way into a leadership position that reports up to the executive team? Now that’s certainly a possibility. People view a family company as one filled with nepotism where only brothers, sisters, sons and daughters stand a chance at success. It most cases it’s just not true. There will be relatives of the owners spread throughout the org chart but it doesn’t stop you from proving your worth and achieving more power and money along the way. Small businesses inherently require each employee to accept more responsibility. If you accept it and thrive in your role, you’ll be given more responsibility along with promotions and pay increases. While large companies hire people to do specific pieces of work, employees at smaller, family owned places tend to “wear many hats” allowing them to learn different parts of the business. This opportunity will keep your work day fresh and guide you down a career path you’re truly passionate about. When was the last time you worked at a large corporation and the CEO dropped in on your meeting? Never. There is far more opportunity for you to work directly with leadership in a smaller, family run business. Take advantage of it by studying leaders to learn how they think through problems and how they effectively interact with and inspire their employees. In many private sports franchises, the family of owners and executive team will be visibly present allowing employees the chance to interact with them while proving their excellence and work ethic. If you’re smart and hard working, you can grow your career quickly in a family owned business taking advantage of the extra responsibilities and chances to work closer to leaders in the company.  

One Comment

  1. Deloreen Pond

    Great article! I agree that working for a family owned sports organizations has many perks that people often over look. Of course, there will be a healthy amount of nepotism because it’s a family after all but no successful owner is going to hand over the reigns of the company to their child if the child is not sufficiently prepared. There’s still opportunity for an “outsider” to work their way up to become an executive while working in a more nurturing environment. If they do happen to find a position at another company, I think a family owned sports organization would be cordial enough to understand that it’s an opportunity the employee wouldn’t have by staying and accept it.

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