Family businesses balance nepotism and merit

Part two of three in the e-glass Special series on family businesses. Click here to read part one. offered some tips to managing nepotism at family businesses, including:

  • Place family members in jobs they are qualified for
  • Pay the same salary for family and non-family employees in like positions
  • Give non-family managers rights to hire, fire and transfer family employees
  • Institute a referral program that allows even non-family workers to recommend relatives and friends.

To read the entire article, click here.


Nepotism defines many family businesses across all industries, and glass is no different. Sons, nieces, grandchildren and spouses often get jobs and promotional opportunities, with or without experience, according to several respondents to part one of the e-glass Special series on family business.

Too much of family favoritism will end up hurting a business, says Bill Evans, president of Evans Glass Co. in Nashville.

“For those employees who aren’t family, if they see preferential treatment, it will hurt morale, and that will hurt production,” Evans says. “If a family member has an attitude but doesn’t have the ability to do the job, you’d see an exodus of even longtime employees.”

Kris Vockler, vice president of ICD High Performance Coatings in Vancouver, Wash., says family business owners need to show non-family employees that merit matters.

“Employees will believe and see that you’re getting what you’re getting because you’re part of the family,” Vockler says. “So, you have to be overly vigilant [in a family business] to prove otherwise. You have to make sure that you’re treating everyone the same.”

This includes equal opportunities and equal pay scales, Vockler says.

Family members also need to prove they have a right to be in their jobs, Evans says, particularly when dealing with promotions sought after by family and non-family employees.

“In our business, any of the grandchildren [to Evans’ father who started the business] deserve the opportunity to explore the company. But just because they are grandchildren doesn’t guarantee they will have a place,” he says. “They have to prove it.”

Evans says he faced the same issue when he took over as president after his father. “I can tell you first hand that when a family member takes a leadership role, it will be assumed it’s because they are family,” Evans says. “But once that family member proves they are capable, they are accepted.”

Tracy McLean became president of Glazing Concepts Inc. in Summerville, S.C., when her husband started the contract glazing firm in 1999. McLean says in addition to proving a family manager is capable of completing a job, they also have to show that they are willing to learn and grow as leaders.

“I came into this because I’m married to my husband,” McLean says. “But I didn’t want to step in and say I’m the boss. I have to be willing to learn. And I have employees who know a whole lot more than I do about this business, and I respect that.”

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