First time poster.

I would appreciate any words of wisdom, advice.

I am the General Manager for a small, manufacturing company. Husband and wife team (I’ll call them mom and pop) Pop is technical, mom finance and over-all operations.

I have been here for 6 weeks and one could say it's still too soon to know if I will thrive and enjoy this job. So far I like it, less dealing with mom and pop.

This position is newly created. They want to retire, kudos to them they can do so at such an early age, because the business is successful. Mom especially spends a lot of time out of the US. They do many things remotely, email and accounting issues.

They go out of the country, at least every other month, for about 30 to 45 days. They just recently told me they know they have trouble employees and they don't do their job when they are gone.
Thus the hiring of an outside person to run the business in their absence.

I've taken over for managers in the past and worked for fortune 500 companies where there is a chain of command and policies are in place and everything is pretty much standard.

My job, learn production and business operations of business. No problem, so far. Grasping it well! It is very technical in nature so pop will always be involved to some extent.

I was thinking this was my dream job.
Good salary!!!!
6 miles from home!!! Seattle area so this is BIG!! :lol:

Started out my 2nd week having O3's with each employee. All seemed to be going well. No big complaints, most genuinely happy with their jobs. Many long time employees 2 to 10 years. Total of 12 direct reports.

Week 5, pop asks me to run all decisions and unusual events by them so they gain trust in my judgment. I can understand that. (mom is gone at this time)

Week 6 I’m ON MY OWN, I didn't know both owners were leaving till they were gone. Big communication problems here! The office staff knew!

Day two of going solo. Office staff let's their hair down. Loud humorous behavior. They did not behave in this fashion when owners were present. Lasted for about ½ hour.

When owners are here it is like a funeral home, okay library. I think people are afraid to look the wrong way.
What I am finding out is the owners ran the place treating the employees very oppressively and harsh.

During the aftermath of the fiesta I asked each of the office staff (4) to come into my office. They each apologized and admitted that they would never behave like that if mom were here. They did share that when mom and pop leave they are somewhat relieved.

Since I cannot make any decisions on my own before conferring with mom and pop. I let them know that as I told them when I started, during O3’s that I am not making any changes until I know the business better, (2 to 3 months?) till then mom and pop are in control and I am learning the business. Mom and pop would not tolerate this behavior nor will I.

I told them each that we need to find some common ground and I would appreciate their feedback. We will get together at another time to discuss the atmosphere and what improvements can be made.

Right from the start I let owners know I am not the same person as wife. I will do things differently.

I send email to owners explaining what happened and how I handled it. They must surely agree that my judgment is solid and they can trust my decisions now and in the future.

I get a phone call. You are in charge and you are to make these decisions on your own. This is a test for you, to see how you do solo. WHAT! This is so frustrating. I can do this job but can I put up with mom and pop.

If anything I vented and feel better. Any words of wisdom? Gotta make mom and pop happy even though I don’t agree with their viewpoint.

stewartlogan's picture

I'll only be brief, but want to offer some advice. I've been in a similar position in a family business (with my own family, no less). I think you're wise to wait the 60 days or so to make any major changes - both for the employees sake and your own sanity.

IMO, you're in a no-win position dealing with day-to-day operations. If you make a great decision, it sounds like they'll probably take the credit for your decision. If you make a bad decision, well, you'll be sure to hear about it.

On the other hand, if you can put up with that, you have great freedom to build a good organization. You'll be able to work with your employees on your terms (mostly), and if things go smoothly you'll build credibility as you go with the employees.

If you treat your people fairly and give them feedback (both positive and negative), you'll be ok. No worker likes to feel threatened, but they do appreciate someone who cares about them and the job they do.

Keep your head up, but be sure to check for potholes occassionally. Make sure to take a few minutes every few days to ensure it's what you WANT to be doing, and that it's a good fit.

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

O3's, Feedback, Coaching - start them now, put the communications piece in place so you have the information to back up later decisions.

Workplace changes - you're right to wait, get the true lay of the land, and make decisions with sound information in your pocket.

Mom & Pop - they want to trust their hard-won manager, they also want to enjoy their travel time. I think if you hold off major changes (affirmative/adjusting feedback is good any time and every time) until you've got a better lay of the land, you'll do well.

Best of luck. It gets better -- and you're making great money doing something you love six miles from home!

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


I've done this as well. It's not easy, but YOU ARE FINE.

If you hold your breath waiting for them to treat you with respect, you will DIE of lack of oxygen.

Let's be clear: you will NEVER understand in this role how hard they have worked and what they have done. They have suffered and surely lashed out at staff in unprofessional ways because they were scared they were going to lose their company and their lifestyle and their friends who respect what they do. They were afraid they would be PENNILESS in retirement. There is NOTHING you can ever do to make THEM believe that you understand that.

They want to retire. GREAT! I am happy for them. And it SCARES THEM TO DEATH. Is the company named after them? That's not your name...and let me tell you, they know your name is different.

This is a hard time for them. During hard times, people act erratically. Get used to it.

First rule of new jobs: FIT IN. FIT IN. FIT IN. It's a GREAT idea to keep you head low for a while. Don't do anything big. Day to day operations is probably fine.

I wouldn't have chewed anyone out about the celebration, even though you're right to be bothered by it, and it sounds like it went well. They were rude and unprofessional, and it would have broken the owner's hearts to see it. It's like dancing on someone's grave.

And, you don't want to only be acting assertively when you punish or give negative feedback. Keep a level head, and let some small things go, while keeping notes.

You're not in a no win situation. You're just earning that big salary. WORK HARD and take your knocks.

One on ones for the first 90 days, and then start making changes. If a change is going to affect more than a few people, let the owners know.

Assume you will be wrong sometimes and get overruled. Welcome to ANY COMPANY. And you better get used to mom and pop. They built the place. Sure, keep a "change" file, that you'll implement over time... but be respectful.

Count your blessings that a small business owner has shown you this much trust. NOW YOU MUST EARN IT.


And count your blessings.


desi's picture

I knew this job was the wierdest position I have ever had.
There was no communication between myself and the owners. Through no fault of my own. I tried and tried.

I doubt they will ever find clones of themselves, which is the only people they feel are quailified for the job.

I felt like a well paid baby sitter. Not happy but trying to make it work.
I had such a good handle on the business. The employees respected me and I had the product down.
Well you can tell where this is going.....
The ironic thing is I turned down a position with another company on Friday and the following Tuesday was let go.

I didn't see it coming at all! No reason. I was not a fit for their company was the reason I was given.
Next day a retired military guy came in to take my place. They had this planned for several weeks I'm guessing.

So for now I collect unemployment and search for the right job for me.
Enjoy your summer!


asteriskrntt1's picture

Hi Desi

Sounds like you have had quite the experience. While you might be bummed now, it will be a seriously powerful tool for you as a manager in the future.

Oh, and that job you turned down? If you are up to it, call them back and see if it has been filled. :)

Thanks for sharing your adventures with us and good luck.


bflynn's picture

[quote="asteriskrntt1"]Oh, and that job you turned down? If you are up to it, call them back and see if it has been filled. [/quote]

No question! Call them up and explain the change in circumstances. It is very possible that the next candidate turns down the offer. And, if they liked you for job X, they might also have job Y in hand.

As far as what to say - its awkward. I don't have a suggestion, but I will think on it.


kklogic's picture

So sorry that it turned out this way. I came to this company I am at now from a company so exactly like what you described that it's almost scary. People were afraid to go to the bathroom too many times because if the owners saw you do it a couple of times, they assumed you were lazy. In fact, people had gotten fired over it before. I could cite stupid decision after stupid decision. This was not my first experience with a small, family business - and unfortunately, all of them were similar experiences.

I think that when a sole proprietor builds a business from the ground up, they know that they have so much knowledge that they could never, ever pass on to other people. Plus, they feel that no one can do as good of a job as they could - so they don't trust anyone. I felt the same frustration as you of doing the right thing - the thing that the entire rest of the business world was doing - only to have it struck down because it wasn't how they'd always done it.

Hang in there. You'll find a better situation. This will surely turn out to be a blessing in disguise.