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Working for a family Business and Letter of Recommendation

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Working for a family Business and Letter of Recommendation [#permalink] New post 09 Mar 2012, 12:14
I have a few questions regarding how the admissions boards will feel about working in a small family company and advice on choosing letter of recommendations based on the fact that I only have one boss, and that is my father.

I graduated Purdue with an Economics degree and a 3.03 GPA. Right out of college I went to work for my dad's small company. I've worked there two full years now, and I'm 25. The company is an industrial manufacturing and wholesale, has 6 employees, $2 million in revenue, and has grown by about 25% since I've been there. I started out as a sales representative and had my title changed to marketing manager as I've been doing a lot of strategic decision-making and advertising, in addition to sales. I have only one person who works above me and that is my father who is the owner and president.

My goal is to get into the best MBA program I can, ideally a top 25 program. Do the admissions boards have a negative view on someone coming from a small family company, as opposed to a large organization with a lot of structure and formal training? Also, would it be bad a decision to use my father to write a LOR considering he works with me the most, and is the only person who is above me? The only other viable options I see for the LOR is a colleague who is the production manager, or our business financial planner who is an outside consultant, but is an MBA himself. Thanks for considering my questions.
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Re: Working for a family Business and Letter of Recommendation [#permalink] New post 09 Mar 2012, 16:26
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Pgrennin,

I am not an admissions consultant, but I will give you my honest opinion as someone who has much experience in the admissions process.

Working in a small company environment under your dad is not going to be the best experience in the eyes of the Adcoms. They will wonder why you were unable or didn't want to get a job outside the family business. Usually this isn't a recent grads (or parents) first choice. It does not show the type of risk taking and competative nature that adcoms would like to see. Also, the fact that you've worked for your dad also means that you've not experienced some of the toughest parts of having a corporate job including having a boss, you've never secured an offer, maybe havn't had interviews, working with teams, asking for raises, getting promotions, and interacting in a corporate environment. Your title, pay, and experience doesn't mean as much b/c you were given these things by your father. Real business is cut throat, and much different than a small family business.

In general, smaller companies are also not favored like large companies, b/c normally the process to get into a large company is also much tougher (aka multiple interviews, background checks, credit checks, drug tests, etc..). These positions normally pay higher also. Business schools like to see this b/c they know you are competative in the working field, and they will want to know that you will be a great alum and do them proud in a big powerful position. I worked in a company with about 30 employees and now I work with one that has many 1000s. It's a HUGE difference, and I've learned so much about the corporate world. I also believe the experience I've gained here holds much more weight in the Adcoms eyes.

I would definitely recommend that you DO NOT get a recommendation from your father, and would strongly consider that you also don't get a recommendation from someone you work with (since your father is their boss and there review can't be unbiased). Even that consultant might not be the best b/c your dad pays him. It's a tough situation, but you may have to do with the people you have. If you have teachers from school, or other people that you've worked with in extra curriculars they would probably be a much better choice. maybe someone from a previous internship?

Since you are 25 with only 2 years of experience, it may serve you best to try to make a transfer into the private sector away from your father. If your ultimate goal is to work in a corporate environment, adcoms don't want to think that you can't do that without the MBA. Plus, when you are done with your MBA, employers are going to want to see that you've worked within a corporation. 2 years of work experience is on the low end, and you could easily get a few more somewhere else and go back when you're 27 or 28.

I'm sure you experiences have been quite valuable, but they aren't exactly what adcoms are looking for at top 25s. Another option is to phrase your application as if you want to become an entreprenuer. If this was the case, then you might have a stronger case that you're trying to learn the ropes from the family business, but would like to build it into a 1000+ employee supercompany. If that is the case, it might show the adcoms that you are atleast driven to greatness, and that you may not have taken the job with your dad b/c it was the only option available.

Also, remember, that although you work experience isn't the greatest out there, there often isn't much an applicant can do about that. We all wish there were better parts of our application. But if you can get a very strong GMAT, strong extracurriculars with leadership positions, have strong undergrad club experience, or something else to offset this work experience and low GPA, you might still be able to do it. Top 25 MBAs are extremely competative these days, and you've got to do everything you can to leverage a top position.

If you'd like a better response, give us all the rest of your stats.

Good luck to you
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Re: Working for a family Business and Letter of Recommendation [#permalink] New post 09 Mar 2012, 18:23
Thanks for your constructive feedback. This definitely helps me manage my expectations and gives me a lot to think about. I will give some serious thought about finding experience in a large company.
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Re: Working for a family Business and Letter of Recommendation [#permalink] New post 10 Mar 2012, 04:11
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Last edited by zander87 on 10 Mar 2012, 04:15, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Working for a family Business and Letter of Recommendation [#permalink] New post 10 Mar 2012, 04:14
I think the main question is 'what do you hope to achieve with my MBA'? If you intend to return to the family business after your MBA then I don't think its necessary to move to a large company. If this is your goal, spend another 2-4 years at the business and find opportunities to lead external facing projects or activities with either with suppliers, customers, government etc and apply to b-school as an enterpreneur hoping to expand your family business or perhaps to start a business on your own. You should be fine. But if you are hoping to switch into corporate, banking or consulting then it is necessary for you to get experience at a large company. However, most importantly is the quality of experience and not just pushing paper in a large company and bidding your time. If you have done several external facing work, you should be able to get people at your supplier or customer companies to write recommendations for you. Your production manager or financial planner may be able to write a letter for you if you have worked extensively with them but certainly not your father. However, It is essential that you get at least one person outside your family's influence who you has worked with extensively at some point to write a letter for you. My 2 cents
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Re: Working for a family Business and Letter of Recommendation   [#permalink] 10 Mar 2012, 04:14
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