Working With Family

betty owensBy Betty Thomason Owens

While working at an engineering  firm, I met two brothers who co-owned a construction company and later moved into design/build. They ran a successful business, and got along very well. Being the mother of sons, I could appreciate their close relationship. I once asked them if they always got along so well. They glanced at each other and chuckled.

“Seriously, we believe in presenting a strong front,” the elder brother told me. “If we have a disagreement, we handle it away from the office or jobsite.”

This is wisdom. Dealing with family on a daily basis and blending personal life with professional can be dicey at times, but it can be done.

I’ve worked in two family-owned businesses. Both had problems. One only occasionally–the other, more often.

The first family-owned business I worked for was owned by a husband and wife. He was “president” — she was “secretary/treasurer.” Though obvious to me their marriage was stable, there were occasional problems, which made it uncomfortable for the other office person (me). Since they were a small business, they treated me like family. Upside: really nice Christmas gifts and cool souvenirs from their vacations. Downside: getting caught in the middle of their periodic arguments.

One of the most memorable episodes happened when he commented on her makeup. A big no-no, especially in front of the office help (again, me). She stomped out, he shrugged and slinked away to his office. Embarrassed, I kept my eyes on my computer screen.

Later, I went to work for another family-owned business. The family was larger and blended, several times. The stepbrothers were not fond of each other and everyone knew it. Most of the time, they tolerated one another. But when the owner of the business (their father) died, emotions were high and one day, resulted in a fist-fight.

I packed up my stuff and was on my way out the door when the older brother came in and apologized for their behavior. The situation did finally get a little better when the younger brother stayed home. Actually, he was fired, which is not an easy thing to do when it’s family. The business eventually shut its doors. I was very close to the owner’s wife and stuck by her as long as she needed me, but I was not really sad to see it go. Neither was she.

I recently participated in a collaborative novella in which the heroine works for her father. She’s in the position temporarily to assist him as he recovers from a stroke. In the story, she hits a couple of snags working for family. Tough decisions. Can she gracefully refuse the position he places her in, which takes her out of her comfort zone into the unknown?

cover of unlikely merger

Unlikely Merger

No longer needed as her father’s nurse, Mercy Lacewell attempts to step into his shoes at his acquisitions firm. That means travel, engaging strangers, and making final decisions—nothing she feels equipped to do. If her best friend has her way, Mercy will simply marry one of the single, available men she meets, but they overwhelm her. So handsome and kind. And so many. Even if she felt obliged, how could she ever choose?

Should she shove all attraction aside and focus on her father’s business, or is God warming her heart with the possibility of forever?


Betty Thomason Owens writes romantic comedy, historical fiction, and fantasy-adventure. She has contributed hundreds of articles and interviews to various blogs around the Internet and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she leads a critique group. She’s also a mentor, assisting other writers. She is a co-founder of a blog dedicated to inspiring writers, and a contributing editor for the soon-to-be launched online magazine, Imaginate.

Her 20’s era romance, Amelia’s Legacy, Book 1, Legacy Series, released October, 2014 (Write Integrity Press). She also writes contemporary stories as a co-author of A Dozen Apologies and its sequels, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger, (2015). She has two fantasy-adventure novels, The Lady of the Haven and A Gathering of Eagles, in a second edition published by Sign of the Whale BooksTM, an imprint of Olivia Kimbrell PressTM.

Coming soon, a 1950’s historical novel inspired by the Book of Ruth, Annabelle’s Ruth, book 1 of the Kinsman Redeemer Series (Write Integrity Press).

You can connect with Betty on her personal webpage, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and at Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas…Oh My!


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