What You Need to Know About Working for a Family-Owned Manufacturer

shaking hands with a manufacturerOkay, prepare for your heart to melt: Over 870 students celebrated Ag Day in Grand Island this year, reports NBC, traveling to see the realities of their agricultural community. You can watch the video at the link above—there were an awful lot of touching realizations about the importance of agriculture in their communities.

“I enjoy the most seeing the kids’ reactions and seeing that they’re learning something, and I hope they can take something home with them that they learned from Ag Day and share it with their families and share it with their friends,” said Ag Day Chairperson Annette Schimmer.

Our favorite quote, though, was from fourth-grade student Joseph Stin. “I just learned how much is produced and how big manufacturing is in Nebraska about this, so it’s kind of neat,” said Stin. “I’ve known most of the stuff here because my aunts and uncles–they farm.”

There are two things about Stin’s observation that really spoke to us. First, we love that he noticed how much is manufactured in Nebraska every single day, and it’s wonderful to see exposure to the process while teaching a child about our industries. Second, for Stin, farming is the family business. We always see the designation of “family-owned” highlighted in “About” sections or in articles, but why does that matter? How does heritage play a role in the Nebraska economy? What does it mean to work in your family industry, especially for manufacturers?

Michael Collins from MPC Management tells Industry Week that most small and mid-size manufacturers are actually family-owned. However, it’s actually true that many massive family-owned enterprises are corporations, like Walmart, Samsung, and Porsche. In fact, family-owned businesses account for more than 30% of all companies with sales in excess of $1 billion.

The Small Business Encyclopedia defines a business as “family-owned” if it’s actively owned or managed by more than one member of the same family. In other words, the family member can’t be a passive player, but needs to be involved in the actual management of the company.

There’s no shortage of family-owned manufacturers: Just look at our posts on Signs & Shapes International, G&G Manufacturing Company, Nebraska Plastics, and the list goes on (and on, and on). One reason for this is that businesses often begin by taking advantage of the family’s human capital, or “inner circle.” According to Entrepreneur: “When the skillsets of different family members are coordinated as a complimentary cache of knowledge, with a clear division of labor, the likelihood of success improves significantly.”

While no manufacturer can be inherently labeled as a homogenous group, as a general rule, family-owned businesses are often labors of love for their owners. As such, employers tend to be more concerned with employee communication, care, dependability, and security. Even if the manufacturer is a larger one, like Nebraska Plastics (who employs around 100 people), there is often a sense that the business is founded on family values and will operate accordingly.

Collins outlines the different types of family manufacturers, making a distinction between those who have transformed the business into a professionally-managed company and those who continue to stay quite small.

For all, though, it is important to recognize that family-owned small manufacturers are not small versions of large manufacturers, and working for one is not akin to working for another. From communication issues to working with the “family agenda” to evaluating the level of delegation the family is able to do, many manufacturing employees find that, just like in any other business, there are pros and cons to working with a family-owned manufacturer.

Questions? Comments? Want to learn more? Leave them in the section below, any time!

photo credit: SouthCoast Visit 03.15.2016 via photopin (license)