Way back in January of 2003 I read this great book,"The Complete Idiots Guide to Being a Successful Entrepreneur by John Sortino" about starting your business. It was a great read, I loved the book, yet I recall one chapter I disagreed with, and thinking to myself, "Ya right, that will never happen to me". Be Careful When Hiring Friends & Family, I seriously thought that John Sortino had lost his mind. I can recall laying in bed and reading excerpts out loud to my husband, and laughing and laughing. This ONE chapter, that amused me so, has haunted me through the years.
Fast forward to April of 2007 and I am a little bit wiser and a lot more cynical. I am sure I have the grey hair (note to self, must make hair appointment ,I need highlights) and the wrinkles to prove I have weathered some entrepreneurial storms. When I started out (I know I have stated this before) I hired friends to work at JPD, I had two small children, and a garage/studio in my home....did I mention it was in my in my home?
So...if you are thinking of hiring friends for your entrepreneurial business, please read on. Now, do note I did NOT say taking on a partner, or a volunteer...be clear what this is about:
The end of 2003 I hired a good friend to help paint the tiles, in 2004 I hired my baby sitter's sister, then her other sister in 2005. Soon I had hired another acquaintance and two other sisters who I had known for years. Um, apparently no one explained the term Nepotism to me....
For awhile things worked out well, we were plugging along just fine, (Christmas of 2005, I think I mentioned was more than double the sales....double the work....double my stress) or so I thought, or so I told myself. Work is messy, work is not like friendship. You have to be prepared for the consequences. Now notice I am not even beginning to blog about working with family...just friends. If you are thinking about hiring friends think long and hard about it. And consider the possibilities or the consequences:
- Money changes relationships
- When a hierarchy exists, the friendship ALWAYS changes
- Not everyone is as happy about your success as you thought they would be
- Friends can and will ask for a raise
- Friends can and will quit
- You may need to fire a friend
Looking back, I am not sure if I would change the choices I made, or I could have done it any differently. At the time I did not feel I could hire strangers to come into my home. In a perfect world referrals and acquaintances would have been the best bet. I would like to tell you that it worked out perfect and we all are still great friends, we get together once a year to laugh about our time in the garage....but that is not the truth. Working for a friend changes the relationship, and from my experience it can never go back to what it was before. Be careful, I warn you, be very aware of the slippery slide you are on when you hire a friend. You must be willing to take the risk for your business and for your family.
On the first day of kindergarten I marched right up to a girl and asked her if she wanted to be my friend. To my relief, she said yes, and we have been friends ever since. The two of us have been seen our frienndship change through the years; sometimes great friends, sometimes good friends, even best friends - but ALWAYS friends. Now, we live almost an hour away and our friendship consists of phone and email conversations, laughing about our past and our present lives. We only get together a few times a year now, the friendship has changed. She is probably one of the hardest and most dedicated workers I know...but I would never, I mean NEVER hire her. I would not risk the friendship.
So if you are considering hiring a friend...tread carefully Grasshopper, you have much to learn.