Working With Family: Three Generations of Advice

Being the daughter half of the mother and daughter team running a leading national snack manufacturing organization, I often get asked “How do you make working with family work?" Working in a family business isn’t for everyone or every family. If you are considering going in to business with or joining your family’s company, here’s what I suggest you think about:

It is imperative that everyone’s role is clearly defined. All five of us have very specific functions, and we respect each other for their expertise. 

Have a clear vision of the company goals going in. Nothing has to be set in stone, but it is important for family members to understand the overall plan for the business.

Make sure there is a place for each family member. Creating a position for someone or placing them in a role where they don’t belong usually leads to disaster.

Communicate. In a family business, it is very important to have an open dialogue constantly. Sometimes it can be even harder to bring up a work issue when it’s family. Don’t let conflict build up, always talk it out.

When you’re at work, be at work. When you go home, be at home. I make a conscious effort to put on my professional hat in the office, and when I’m outside of the office, I have to take it off.

Don’t alienate the rest of your work force. No one should feel like an outsider if they are not family. We make sure that it is clear that family does not have “special privileges.” They are not entitled to anything different than the rest of the team.

Make it the family’s mission to set the example and the tone for the work environment, and make it a good one!

I can’t imagine only seeing my family on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Working together provides us more time together and allows us to share in experiences that help us grow both as individuals and as a family. We get to revel in each other’s strengths, not just those we share across a dinner table, but those we experience firsthand. I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to work by my mother’s side for this company that was started by a man we both love so dearly and that we both feel so passionate about.

Claire Cretors serves as president of Cornfields Inc., a leading, healthy-foods private label company and creator of the G.H. Cretors and Hi I’m Skinny retail brands. After joining the company in 2006, Claire became executive vice president in 2007 and president in January 2012. Claire has made it her mission to build on the foundation laid by her father, Cornfield Inc.’s founder. She strives for continuous innovation, holds quality as a top priority, and stays ahead of industry trends. Prior to joining Cornfields Inc., Claire worked in investment management at Northern Trust in Chicago and as a consultant for Bearing Point in Washington DC. She received an undergraduate degree in business from the University of Denver and an MBA from American University. Since Claire started with Cornfields Inc., the business has experienced growth of 500% and the company has more than doubled the space it occupies in the snack category. For more information, visit and

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