Involving people who are close to you and whose talents you trust can seem like an ideal scenario if you’re starting a company or looking to develop and drive forward an established enterprise of any size.
But the practicalities of engaging in a professional working relationship with close friends or family members can actually end up making your life much more difficult than it otherwise might’ve been as a business boss.
There’s nothing to say that hiring friends or family members is always a misstep but it’s important to think very carefully before taking on someone you love as a business partner or as an employee.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the key pros and cons of hiring friends and family.
They could be a great hire
Bringing in good people who are ready and able to make a positive contribution to your business is a crucial aspect of developing any enterprise. So if you are able to hire someone who is a good fit for your company by virtue of having them in your life already then bringing them on board could be a very real advantage for your operation.
You might get them cheap
If you have a family member or a friend who happens to have precisely the skills and experience that you need to add to your business then the appeal in offering them a job is clear enough. And because you already have a close relationship, they might be open to the idea of working for or with you at a rate that works for them and represents great value for your business.
For small businesses and start-ups in particular, it’s very important that colleagues and co-workers are able to maintain good communications between one another and with their bosses as consistently as possible. Therefore, bringing in someone who you know very well and who you are certain you can communicate easily with can be a considerable benefit.
Commitment to the cause
Making sure that anyone who comes into your business has relevant skills, experience and aptitudes is obviously of paramount importance for managers in any enterprise context. But hiring people who have a commitment to working hard and perhaps going the extra mile can also be extremely valuable.
There are of course no guarantees that a close friend or a family member will demonstrate real commitment to the cause as a part of your workforce but the bonds you already have in place could be enough to keep them motivated when times get tough or when extra efforts are required.
A healthy sense of optimism can stand any business boss in good stead and can be particularly essential during difficult moments. However, it is very important not to succumb to the curse of wishful thinking when it comes to the crucial process of hiring new members to your workforce.
So if you’re considering the possibility of bringing a family member or a close friend into your business on a permanent basis then all issues ought to be taken into account, which means giving an honest assessment of their potential failings as well as their attributes.
It is perhaps human nature to overlook negative traits in people we love but from a business perspective doing so can be costly.
Running a business and being demanding of your employees or your co-workers is difficult enough when you’re dealing with people who you have only known in a professional context.
So if you are bringing friends or family members into your company then it’s vital to be conscious of the fact that you may need to be tough with them from time to time.
Significant pressures are at play in virtually every working environment on a day to day basis and developing a business will often be a rollercoaster ride in which fresh challenges are constantly being taken on.
In this context, no employer can afford to play favourites or to avoid the kind of candid conversations that might be awkward but which are absolutely necessary.
Blurring the lines
If you hire someone with whom you have a strong relationship beyond your professional setting then it can be very difficult to strike the right balance and maintain the distinctions between your relationships inside and outside of the workplace.
It is easy to assume that these lines will remain clearly drawn or that any blurring of them won’t cause any significant problems but there is always a risk to both your professional and your personal relationships when you hire someone close to you.
What if things go wrong?
Clearly, if you’re considering hiring a friend or a family member to work with you on a long-term basis then the hope is that the situation will be mutually beneficial and positive for both parties.
As is so often the case though in life and in business, it’s important to consider not just the best case scenarios but also what might happen if things don’t go according to plan.
Key questions well worth asking yourself before you hire a friend or family member would include the following: Could you handle firing them? How would they take it if you had to let them go? What if serious disputes were to emerge? Are you relying on the bonds of friendship or family to maintain your working relationship? Would you have problems from a legal perspective if you wanted to end their employment with your company?
As we’ve seen there are a good number of both pros and cons when it comes to the prospect of hiring someone who is already in your life and who is a close friend or a family member. In the end, there is no right or wrong course of action and each case ought to be assessed on its merits.
What’s vital though is to realise that hiring friends or family members can easily go wrong quickly and with very significant consequences. It can be a great way to bolster your company’s resources and help make you more competitive but it can also be a major mistake that takes time, effort and emotional energy to undo and move beyond.
Gary Addison is a director at Redundancy Claim and has helped thousands of company directors at their lowest ebb with advice around redundancy and statutory entitlements.