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Boss Baby

Boss Baby: Proprietors with Parents on the Payroll

Photos and Story by Jillian Harman

It’s common for parents to hire their kids. But what happens when the child starts a business and hires the parents?

In the world of business, it’s not uncommon to find family members working together. However, a unique dynamic emerges when children start a business and hire their parents. While the idea of being your parent’s boss might seem unusual, there are several reasons why this arrangement can be beneficial. 

The Prevalence of the Phenomenon

There’s no specific data on the number of business owners who hire their parents; however, anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s not an uncommon practice. This is particularly true in small businesses, where personal and professional lives often intertwine. 

The reasons for this arrangement can vary widely. Some business owners may bring their parents on board for their expertise and experience, while others may do so to provide their parents with a sense of purpose or financial stability in their later years.

The Benefits of Hiring Parents

Hiring parents can offer several unique advantages. First and foremost, there’s a level of trust and understanding that often exists between parents and their children that can be hard to replicate with other employees. This trust allows for better communication and sharing of ideas, which ultimately contribute to the success of the business.

Parents are also likely to be deeply invested in the success of the business, not just for financial reasons, but also because they want to see their child succeed. 

Moreover, parents can bring a wealth of life experience and wisdom to the business. They can provide valuable perspective and advice, helping their children navigate the challenges of running a business. In many cases, parents can also provide a level of emotional support and stability that can be invaluable.

From a financial perspective, business owners may choose to hire their parents because it is a less expensive option than hiring a stranger. Often parents are either retired or employed part-time elsewhere, so the parent’s salary may be below market value.

The Challenges of Hiring Parents

This arrangement is not without its challenges. One potential drawback is the difficulty of maintaining professional boundaries. It can be hard to separate family dynamics from business relationships, which can lead to conflicts. A parent may feel entitled to interject their opinion or advice concerning business matters when it may be unwarranted or inappropriate.

Parents can also feel burdened by worrying about their children and the business. Working daily along side their child provides access to all the ups and downs the company may encounter. This knowledge can affect a parent, who naturally wants to shield their child from unpleasant realities. 

If the company also has other employees, there’s a risk they may feel the parent receives preferential treatment, potentially creating a hostile work environment. The business structure and job roles need to be clearly defined to ensure all employees feel equal.

Legal and Financial Considerations

When hiring parents, it’s important to be aware of potential legal and financial implications. For instance, if the parent is retired, there may be restrictions on how much they can earn without affecting their retirement benefits. 

In addition, there may be tax implications to consider. For example, wages paid to the parent are subject to income tax withholding, social security, and Medicare taxes. However, they are not subject to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax. 

It’s advisable to consult with a financial advisor or employment lawyer to understand these implications.

Advice for Parents

For parents stepping into the role of an employee in their child’s business, the shift in dynamics can be a significant adjustment. However, with the right mindset and approach, parents can contribute positively to their child’s business while also finding fulfillment and purpose in their work.

Firstly, it’s crucial for parents to respect the business hierarchy. While it may feel unnatural to take direction from your child, in the business setting, they are the boss. This means respecting their decisions, even if you might not always agree with them. Remember, they have the final say in business matters.

Secondly, parents should strive to maintain a professional attitude at work. This includes adhering to the same standards and expectations as other employees. For instance, showing up on time, meeting deadlines, and performing tasks to the best of your ability are all essential aspects of being a professional.

Thirdly, it’s important for parents to separate their work and personal lives. While it’s natural to worry about your child, it’s essential to remember that in the workplace, they are your boss, not your child. This means avoiding the temptation to offer unsolicited advice or interject in matters that fall outside your role.

Finally, parents should be open to learning and growth. Even if you have years of experience, there’s always something new to learn. Being open to feedback and willing to adapt to new ways of doing things can make you a valuable asset to your child’s business.

The Future of this Trend

As the population ages and more people delay retirement, we may see an increase in the number of business owners hiring their parents. This trend could be further fueled by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to job losses and financial instability for many older adults. As a result, more parents may be open to the idea of working for their children’s businesses.

Recent difficulties in hiring, such as labor shortages and increased competition for skilled workers, also make this child/parent arrangement a viable option for more businesses to consider. However, the success of this arrangement will depend on the ability of businesses to navigate the unique challenges it presents. As this trend grows, it will be important for business owners to seek professional advice and put in place clear policies and procedures to manage these relationships effectively.

Unique Arrangement

Hiring parents can be a viable strategy for business owners. The benefits of trust, shared investment in the business’s success, and the potential for gaining valuable wisdom and perspective can outweigh the potential drawbacks. However, it’s important for business owners to maintain professional boundaries and ensure fair treatment of all employees.

For parents, working for your child can be a unique and sometimes challenging experience. But it can also be incredibly rewarding.

On the following pages, we highlight some local boss babies benefiting from having their parents on the payroll.

Conscious Wellness 

Boss Baby: Dr. Julie Sharrar

What made you hire your parent? 

My mother and I had worked together at a former employer. We got along great. When I opened my own office, my budget was limited, but I needed a massage therapist. I knew we would work well together. 

What are the challenges/benefits? 

Reliability and flexibility. I already knew my mom has an amazing work ethic and is very reliable. If I need her to work an extra day or two, she’s extremely flexible with her schedule. She also really cares about the business and is willing to do more to make the practice feel warm and welcoming. There really haven’t been any challenges.

How has your relationship grown or changed? 

We’ve always been close, so that hasn’t changed. Working with her, I have seen how great of a massage therapist she is and how awesome she is at taking care of and building a rapport with the patients.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

How lucky we are to be able to work together and build something that helps people and contributes to our community.

What do you enjoy most? 

That we can be ourselves around each other. There’s no putting on pretenses or trying to impress. It’s great to have someone on my team who really cares about the practice and gives people quality care.

Peggy Pyle, Licensed Massage Therapist

Why do your work for your child? 

I didn’t have a choice! Kidding aside, Julie couldn’t afford to hire someone, and I had the right qualifications. I was also excited to be a part of her first business venture, watching it grow from the ground up.

Do you/did you have a career elsewhere?

I have been a licensed massage therapist for 13 years. I am semi-retired. I also work for my other daughter.

How has your relationship grown or changed? 

I was already aware of her capabilities, work ethic, and skills. But watching her start her own business for the first time was very impressive. However, it was nerve racking at times, like watching your young child play a sport or do something new. You want them to succeed but not get hurt. I cannot turn off the mom part in me.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

To respect her boundaries. She is the boss at work. She is taking the financial and career risk. Not me.

What do you enjoy most?

Honestly, there is nothing I don’t enjoy about working for my children. I have more freedom and choices. I feel a personal investment in the business. It’s almost like working for myself, but without the financial risk. They look out for me and take good care of me. We work well together. We are a good team. I get to see them daily. It is a blessing to see them use their talents and be successful. They are talented, smart, and skilled. I am so proud of both of them.

GlitterGirl Media

Boss Baby: Heather Taylor 

What made you hire your parent?

My mom is a fantastic person. Plus, she is very dedicated, hard working, and detail oriented. Who else would be more vested in a company’s success than the owner’s mom? Hiring her was a no-brainer.

What are the challenges/benefits?

Sometimes I feel bad asking my mom to work on her days off from her regular part-time gig. I appreciate the help so much, but I also want to be sure she has valuable time off to enjoy her semi-retirement.

How has your relationship grown or changed? 

I’ve always been very proud of how hard my mom works, but I never saw it first hand until she started working for me. She always asks great questions, verifies anything that looks off, and keeps a very close eye on client work. She knows that accuracy and attention to detail are important to my business. She does an incredible job.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned? 

I’ve learned that I can hire staff for my business. I always thought I’d remain a solopreneur, but adding my mom has been a huge benefit to me and my company.

What do you enjoy most? 

I always enjoy spending time with my mom. Now it’s even more fun because we can talk shop. She knows about my clients and their projects. She accompanies me to business functions and does a wonderful job representing my firm. I couldn’t be more thankful that I have the World’s Best Employee!

Denise Demerling, Business Office Manager

Why do your work for your child? 

Heather had some extra work that didn’t require her expertise but was time-consuming. So, I started working for her part time. This works out great for both of us. She can concentrate more on research for her clients’ monthly content, and I get to make some extra money.

Do you/did you have a career elsewhere?

I’ve been in the medical billing field for more than 40 years. I currently work 29 hours a week. 

How has your relationship grown or changed? 

My perspective has changed. I see how detailed oriented Heather’s work is. She must generate new ideas every month for her clients.  

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

I’ve always known Heather can do anything she sets her mind to. I’m very proud of my daughter. She has received numerous awards for her work.

What do you enjoy most?

I enjoy spending time with my daughter and the flexibility of the work hours. I also get to see many different companies in the community and how they work together for success.