“Make your top managers rich and they will make you rich”

—Robert H. Johnson

Hiring Family

Is it a good idea, or a bad one? Hiring family can be a good idea in some situations — if you’re working with sensitive information, or you need someone you can trust. With family, you generally know what you’re getting; there’s no need to check the references, and you may share similar values and approaches.,

It is especially meaningful to create employment for family members and loved ones — another way of taking care of people important to you — and may lead to increased job satisfaction for everyone. Getting family involved, especially immediate family, will include them in your successes (and failures) and give them a stake in your business.

Working with spouses can allow a couple to spend time together, improve communications, and work towards mutual goals. If you’re raising kids, it can mean the kids are able to stay home longer which is beneficial to both the children and the family unit while reducing child care costs.

But, working with family doesn’t have to mean everyone with your last name is on your payroll. It can be as simple as getting occasional feedback on your work, services, product, or presentation. Family members can test things you create. And you can arrange one-time contracts, or odd jobs here and there, as the opportunity presents itself and they are available.

Of course, there are also times when working with family is a bad idea. You want to avoid nepotism, or the appearance of nepotism, at all costs — the practice of hiring someone only because they’re family, without consideration of their skills is counter to sound business practice and shouldn’t be your sole criteria, particularly in key positions.

Another consideration is that when the work arrangement comes to an end — especially an unexpected end — it may disrupt family unity and create hard feelings. There may be situations, particularly dysfunctional ones, where it might not be the best idea to work together. Use good judgment.

If you do hire family, make sure you set the expectations up front in terms of what you want, and the likely length of the position. Put everything in writing, and further discuss the situation to be sure it is clear to everyone. Job descriptions, expectations, hours, wages, the length of the contract — everything you can think of should be detailed in writing and spelled out as clearly as possible. This is of prime importance with family. If disagreements arise, go immediately to the written description/contract for resolution so that the situation doesn’t become emotional, destructive, or a source for bad feelings.

After all, no business is worth losing your entire family for! You are building a business so you can provide for your family — not eliminate them from your life.

Some of my best and worst experiences in my self-employment have been when I hired family. Writing this book with my brother was a great decision because he has better project management than I do and we have the same motivation to get things done.