What's your problem? Family business

I'm a solictor but my parents have hinted they'd like me to join the family business. They run a cafe in a small town. I don't know what to do.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 15 Oct 2014

Q. My parents own a successful delicatessen and cafe in the small town where my brother and I grew up. I went to university and started a career as a solicitor but my parents are making it clear to me that they'd love it if I took over their business. I'm not that interested, especially as I'm happy in London, but I feel really bad about letting them down. What's more, my younger brother has hinted that he'd be interested in working with them but I think they feel he's unreliable as he hasn't yet settled into a career. I don't know what to do.

A. There's more than one way of letting your parents down. If you gave up your career in London and agreed to take over your parents' business, for which you have no natural aptitude or enthusiasm, you'd never be able to run it to your parents' exacting standards - however hard you tried. And their disappointment would be all the greater for having started with such high hopes and expectations.

As for you, you'd soon be miserable on two counts: firstly, for having let your parents down; and, secondly, for having deserted a profession for which you'd spent years qualifying and which was giving you much satisfaction. Before you knew it, you'd be secretly blaming your parents for having cajoled you into it and ruining your life; when in truth it was entirely your decision.

Be completely open with them. Tell them you couldn't bear to risk your relationship in such a way. I'm sure they'll understand. Your younger brother may or may not be the solution - but he starts with an advantage that you'll never have: genuine interest. He should certainly be given the chance to prove himself.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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