It’s inevitable that when you start talking about your new business venture with friends that one or more of them are going to ask you if they can work for you or work with you on it.

What do you say? How do you know if they’ll be a help or a hindrance to your business goals? 

Will you be able to keep them as a friend if they do come on board your enterprise?

It’s pretty much like an office romance. It can be intense and pleasurable for a while, but what happens when passions cool and the regular daily routine, the insistent grind, has to continue as if nothing had happened before?

So before you hire a pal at your business...

...just take a moment to consider how many office romances (including your own, maybe) you’ve witnessed over the years, and what was the percentage of those that turned out to be productive and long-lasting.

However, if you put some strict boundaries in place right at the beginning of a friend’s employment, you both might survive and learn to prosper together:

  • They get paid just like everybody else -- no more, no less. They don’t work for free, and they don’t get any ‘buddy’ perks (during office hours).
  • You don’t expect them to be a spy for you, and they shouldn’t volunteer to become one for you.
  • They should call you by your proper name, the way everyone else in the office calls you, such as Ms. Smith or Tom, but not your nickname Bootsie. Never your nickname.
  • You won’t be giving them rides to and from work, and they shouldn’t ever ask for one.
  • They have to follow the dress code, if you have one, like everybody else.
  • They have to respect whatever management style you put in place and not constantly go over their immediate manager’s head to tell you something or to complain.
  • The rest of your staff is not their exclusive dating pool.
  • They can’t take home office supplies as if they were a part-owner.
  • When your door is closed, they have to knock and wait to be invited in, like everyone else.
  • They have to agree before you hire them that if things don’t work out,t they will go quietly and cheerfully when you let them go. It helps if you agree to give them plenty of advance notice. It’s the same principle as the prenup.

A friend in need may not be your friend at all -- in business

You, as an entrepreneur, are not a heartless capitalist and are only concerned with the bottom line. If you have friends who are going through some tough financial times, and you’re just starting up a new company, you may be tempted to help them out by giving them a position and a salary -- even though they may not be really qualified for it.

Do not give in to that charitable impulse.

No one will thank you for it -- not your staff, who will feel they’ve been passed over for no good reason, or even your friend, who will probably resent you at some future point for putting them in an untenable position where their co-workers hate them, and they don’t know what the heck they’re doing.

Just remember, no good deed goes unpunished.

Just say no

The advice of many successful business people is to make a hard and fast rule to never hire friends (or family) no matter what. They may actually be well qualified for the position and have years of experience at it. No matter. You still won’t hire them. You’ll use your connections to see if some other business is hiring in their field, sure -- that’s what friends are for. But the only time they’ll see the inside of your office is if they’re stopping by for a lunch date or to borrow your car.

This resolve can save a lot of regret, recriminations, temporizing, and wasted time and money; and this is the only 100% guaranteed way to keep a friendship going over the years.

About the Author(s)

 Melissa  Thompson

Melissa Thompson is a freelance producer and has worked at CNN, USA Today, and is currently the Editor in Chief of Harcourt Health. She writes about small business, social media, marketing, and productivity and is passionate about promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Editor in Chief, Harcourt Health
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