Family and Émigré Owned Business

Family owned and recent Émigré owned small businesses are in many respects just like any other business and may be indistinguishable from them. There may also be unique value and advantages that are derived from these special characteristics. Over more than 40 years of representing small businesses of every kind of ownership, we have come to understand and respect that these qualities may also pose unique challenges.


Family Owned Business


While not unique to family owned businesses, it is more common for agreements and responsibilities between owners to be not documented and sometimes not even stated, but just implied or assumed. Family owned businesses often have unstated or weakly defined roles which make forthright partnership discussion awkward and uncomfortable. For this reason, misunderstandings and disputes often surface. The implicit hierarchical status of many family relationships between parents and their sons and daughters and between siblings are often inconsistent with effective business operation. It is also common for such business relationships to avoid the conflict of directly addressing businesses problems. This is not to say that family owned businesses cannot be and stay successful or that the burdens are not outweighed by the benefits of working together with family members for both common good and individual success. It is worth noting that these challenges are present and can benefit from coaching, mediation and a business like negotiated written agreement which sets out ownership and responsibilities and establishes methodology for addressing problems. Family owned businesses tend to be more prosperous and durable when business matters are addressed in a business like way and not in a family like way.


Peter Stanwyck, Bay Area Business Attorney believes that engaging in a frank and thorough review of rights and obligations between family member business partners often avoids miscommunication and disputes. We have considerable experience at guiding such discussions and preparing family agreements, because we understand the special needs of a family owned business and provide thoughtful and thorough counseling.


Recent Émigré Owned Business


It is not uncommon for business owners, born in other countries and experienced with other customs to attempt to operate their business according to the rules and customs from other cultures. Sometimes that is compatible and sometimes it clashes with California and Federal laws and with expectations of California customers, vendors and employees. While this may come up in a variety of ways, two are most common. Many cultures treat the handshake as the deal and regard proposing a written agreement, especially a detailed one as an expression of distrust. In this culture, if something has gone wrong with a deal, the only thing that matters is what detailed terms are contained within the four corners of a written agreement. Secondly, some cultures have a more pragmatic relationship with governmental requirements especially when it comes to issues relating to employees, safety and licensing. It is also a fact that all of these detailed rules may be unknown and unexpected. The result is that such businesses are more vulnerable to proceedings and legal actions by governmental entities and by private attorneys. In my experience, recent émigré owned businesses are often targeted by both government and private attorneys for wage and hour employee violations, as well independent contractor classifications, because of the perception that violations are more likely to be found.


We provide sensitive legal counseling aimed and respecting and valuing the unique contributions from other cultures while still avoid avoiding problems and dispute in California.





Peter Stanwyck, Oakland attorney and small business lawyer represents small and medium sized businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Marin County, San Francisco, Berkeley, Hayward, Fremont, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasanton Castro Valley, El Cerrito