Going into business with friends and family is an age-old conundrum. We know and trust our friends and family - who better to entrust with your livelihood, right? On the flip side however, you’ve likely heard stories of how dealings with them went epically wrong.
Fall-outs, especially when money and business deals are involved, have the potential to ruin relationships with the strongest of foundations. What’s the right answer? Should I mix friendship and family with business?
If you are coming here, chances are you are having doubts about whether or not to hire your friend or family member. It’s a tricky decision; but then again, no decision, business or otherwise, is without risk. There’s a chance that things will go really well or really wrong. It’s really a matter of weighing the pros and cons and hoping for the best.
Here are a few things I would consider before making a decision of this magnitude.
Are they qualified to do the work?
I don’t think anyone goes into business hoping to fail. We certainly go in ‘prepared’ for the worst, while planning and hoping for the best. Planning for the best means getting the right people who will be able to get you to your business goals. If your friend or relative isn’t qualified, perhaps you should consider someone who is.
Can you pay them?
I know - getting qualified professionals means steady revenue which you may not have. And you need help getting to the steady revenue stage. This is often what drives people to get friends and family on board their business ship. If you can scrounge up some money or find an alternative way to compensate them for their work (say commissions, equity etc), it becomes a transaction and they can be held more accountable for their deliverables.
Do you have time to train them?
If you can bring in a professional who already has the skill set you require, then you’re halfway there. If you can't, you need to find a way to build your friend or relative’s capabilities to get you the business goals you are looking to achieve. It could be on the job training, or signing them up for a course in your specific field. Consider how much time it will take to get them to the skill-level you require to get the job done, against how much time you have.
Are their aspirations and values aligned to yours?
There’s nothing more challenging than working towards a common goal with someone who doesn’t have similar values and aspirations to you. The end doesn’t always justify the means in this case. You may find yourself damaging your relationship before you get to the end. The result would be you constantly nagging them to do the work, you taking on all the tasks, or leaving them to do things their way against your wishes. Either way, it ends in resentment - relationship wise. It could also lead to burn-out and eventual stress-related health concerns.
Can you communicate freely and openly with them?
What would happen if they mess up? Would you be able to call out your friend or family member if they did something wrong? Are they open to getting feedback from you? If you are not able to speak openly to them in your everyday relationship, it won’t get any easier if you throw business into the mix. At the end of the day, being able to communicate your challenges and address them is the key to maintaining happy relationships. Be upfront and honest about what works and what doesn’t while being mutually respectful.
If you can answer these questions, then you know what you need to do.
Still can't decide?
If you are still unsure, or are possibly feeling pressured to hire them, consider taking them on on a project basis. A project means that there are clear deliverables, with a defined start and finish date. Based on their performance on the project, you can decide whether you can or will work with them.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to doing business with friends and family. It’s a risk that you take which can go either way. Prepare yourself for either outcome, but hope for the best.