Family-owned businesses come with a lot of complications.
Some family members will take it seriously and want to be a part of it. Others will ridicule it until it’s successful and then want part of the profit. And then there are some who are completely uninvolved until the time comes for someone to inherit it.
One guy found himself struggling with these various dynamics on the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Helmut_reddit1957 thought he made a reasonable enough decision about what to do with his business when he retired.
But after receiving pushback, the Original Poster (OP) questioned his choices.
He asked the sub:
“AITA for not splitting the control of my business between my children equally?”
The OP decided on his retirement plans.
“Hay, 65-year-old electrician from Germany here.”
“I plan to settle down, traveling with my wife (65), and spoiling our grandchildren for the rest of our lives.”
“I had built up a small business with now 23 employees, my son (36) Alexander will take control of it.”
“I have also 2 daughters of which I am proud of.”
“Laura (34) has studied Biochemistry and has her master’s degree, Marie (30) became a middle school teacher in mathematics and sports.”
But not everyone agreed with the OP’s plans.
“I have recently spoken about my plan at a family gathering.”
“Laura was totally acceptable with it, but Marie accused me of favoritism.”
“That is not true, I love every one of my children equally, but my son decided to make training on my side as he graduated (Abitur, similar to high school), and he got a master’s license as an electrician.”
“So we worked nearly 17 years together, and also he has the ability to run our business, and our employees respect him.”
The OP’s younger daughter remained unconvinced.
“I told my daughter the points above, but she said I was always closer to my son than to my daughters.”
“Sadly, I have to admit it is kind of true, but how isn’t it possible if I work all day together with my son?”
“He is also my colleague and my right hand at work.”
“My wife, Laura, and Alexander side with me, so I need an outside opinion in here.”
“So Reddit, AITA?”
The OP also clarified a few questions.
“Alexander will become the owner, and I will be totally out of it.”
“As he started to work with me, we were only 6 People, and as he got his master’s license, he trained 7 more of our employees. We Germans say, ‘Er war mit Herzblut bei der Sache,’ or, he sacrificed a lot.”
“My daughters were offered to work with me and earned money in school holidays on my side, but as they graduated, they had their own career plans, which my wife and I have supported, financially and emotionally.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some thought the OP’s decision simply made sense.
“NTA – you are giving your electrician business to the electrician who has worked there for 17 years.”
“Your employees would think you are the a**hole if you handed control over to someone with no experience other than being related.” – Stigweird85
“NTA. Your son has invested his time and energy in the business and helped you to make it a success, no doubt. And all of your reasons are also correct – by leaving the business to your son, you are also trying to ensure that the workers and their families also have a long-term future with the business, as your son is best placed to keep the company running successfully.”
“Also – it’s your business and your money – and therefore your right to leave it to whoever you want to.”
“Good luck.” – BunnyDeRabbit
“The Son worked there for 17 years, trained 7 of the employees, and contributed significantly to building the business.”
“In addition, lots of businesses like this aren’t really worth anything except to a select potential few successors in the company. If OPs daughter were to buy it from the son, she would likely drive it into the ground pretty quickly.”
“I think the value of the business should definitely be considered but that being said it’s not really worth much to anyone else.” – LeonhardTaylor
Others questioned the daughter’s use of the word “favoritism.”
“He’s worked side-by-side with the son for 17 years. Of course, their relationship is extremely close.”
“I worked with my mom for 6 years. During that time, I would definitely say we had the closest relationship amongst all the kids. Because we spent the most time around each other.”
“We had time at work to talk, we had time at home to talk, whenever one of us had a work story we had more to talk about because we both knew everyone involved. We often drove to and from work together – 2 hours a day in a car with nothing but time to talk to each other.”
“Time together outside of work never had to be about catching up on what was going on in each other’s lives, because we were a constant daily presence.”
“Now my sister works with my mom, has been for a year. And I would definitely say they now have the closest relationship amongst the kids.”
“It may not seem fair to have a closer relationship with one kid than the other, but it’s human. I have a different relationship with each parent. A different relationship with each sibling. A different relationship with each cousin, and so on.”
“IMO, it sounds like the daughters didn’t care about the business until it became a thing to inherit. Now that it’s not about working with dad, or working in this field, but about money – now the daughter wants a piece.”
“Money is f**king evil. It turns good people into selfish monsters. Inheritances and wills destroy families.”
“I love my aunt, but when she was in control of my grandpa’s accounts, she drained them on herself and her kids and her house. It irrevocably changed my opinion of her and our relationship. This woman literally helped raise me, and while she’s still in my life, we’re not close anymore, and I don’t trust her.” – lovely_button
“But why should she get the profits when she put no effort into it?”
“The son spent 17 years doing grunt work to get where he is today.”
“The sisters should be required to make a contribution and work for the business for a few years to gain their share. If Marie wants more she should learn the trade, or at least assist with the business in some ways.”
“Trust me when I say getting that electrician’s license is worse than my 2 degrees. Due to the apprenticeship. I would gladly work an 80 hour week in IT than repeat a 40 hour week as an apprentice again.” – Legitimate_Drive_693
In regards to the son’s right to working in the business, the subReddit had no issue.
But in regards to ownership, there was a little more gray area, since the OP would inevitably leave nothing for his other two children. The son could still lead the company and earn most of the profit, while the daughters could earn something, too, more or less as a nod to their relationship with their father.