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Latina Cubicle Confidential™ Are You In a Family Owned “Cubicle”?

By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™

Many Latinos have embraced the American Dream by establishing small family-owned businesses. The U.S. Census reports that Hispanic-owned business increased by almost 44 percent between 2002 and 2007. This represents about 2.3 million businesses throughout the US.

Family-run restaurants is common among Latino businesses.

Unlike the start-up culture among early-stage technology firms, Latinos who own their own business do not look for an acquisition or a merger. Instead, over 70% are looking to pass their business on to their children versus 54% of the general population of business owners, according to a study by Mass Mutual.

If your father or mother established a business when you were young, chances are they sent you off to get a degree in business, engineering, hospitality or medicine so that you could one day run the shop or the restaurant or the clinic.

It is a parent’s dream that one day they can pass along a family business so that their children can grow it and be set for life. It can be a fairy tale story come true or it can be a troubling conversation when you want a career that takes you in a different direction.

Some children aspire to follow in their parents’ footsteps but it is not a surprise that after seeing parents work enormous hours at building a business, they may want a different life.

Are you in a cubicle owned by your parents and not planning on staying?

The hardest challenge is to separate the family issues from the business ones — among Latinos, business is personal and you would be wise to prepare for many conversations. Latinos are also tenacious. Even if you have hinted at your career choice for many months or even years, your parents will not lose hope en un milagro — a miracle — that you will change your mind and stay.

Here are three important considerations if you are certain about your choice:

First, make sure that you provide your family a picture of your career path and the opportunities you have by joining a company, joining a law firm, or starting a separate business of your own. More than anything your parents want to know that your career will provide for you some security. Get clear on the short-term opportunity and long-term gains. It is to your benefit to clarify that the life you have chosen fulfills your personal strengths, interests, and goals. Parents ultimately want you to be happy in life and that’s worth saying—again and again.

Second, look carefully for a way to stay involved in the family business that links your interests, expertise and skills to your family’s business — you can be an investor, you can create a board of advisors and serve on that, you can advise on social media marketing. Keeping up some boundaries between your career and your family business is important but your parents will have an easier time with your decision if you show some other ways to connect with them in the family business.

Last, take time to recognize and accept that your parents will always see you as more vulnerable and more innocent regardless of the degrees you have received or the internships you’ve completed. This is all part of being loved by a Latino family. It is normal. You may be 30-years-old but as soon as you walk through your parents’ front door you are transformed to “mijita” and “mijito” — back at age 12 or younger.

Even if you are the first in your family to gain a college degree, you still don’t have all the wisdom necessary to make the right decisions for yourself. Despite your impulse to respond, you may gain more by talking about your success — that will most likely win their approval.

Tell me about your family business at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ or visit with me at the next LatinaVIDA™.

Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. For more information, visit Latina Cubicle Confidential™.

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