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How to Avoid Getting Burned When Hiring Friends

College Treps

Editor's Note: College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.

How to Avoid Getting Burned When Hiring Friends

When you're young and starting a business, it's almost natural to think of hiring your friends. They're passionate about the same things as you. You obviously like them, and you likely already spend a ton of time together.

So what could be better than working with your best friend? Having a cohesive team that helps you turn a profit.

I can speak from both sides of the hiring-friends argument, as I've had positive and negative experiences through founding Soccer Genome, a soccer training program out of the Raleigh/Wake Forest, N.C., area.

My first hire was actually an acquaintance who I met through my fiancé. We quickly became friends after we started working together -- and the company prospered. We soon needed more help.

Related: Blue, Green, Gold? How to Manage Employees Based on their “Color” Temperaments 

My second hire, an old friend from high school, was a great fit…in the beginning.

Things started off well enough. I had known him for years, so I filled up his schedule quickly with my referrals. Still, the tension between my employees became clear when we all trained a larger group together.

And as we brought in other coaches, the rift became even more pronounced. While my first employee would stay late and volunteer to do extra tasks, my friend and second hire demanded pay raises bossed the newer coaches around.

After several warnings, things came to a head when the other coaches began complaining about my friend's behavior. One by one, each coach came to me and said they no longer wanted to work with him. Then came the truly tough part: I had to fire my friend.

Here are four lessons I learned about hiring and firing friends:

1. Ensure a culture fit. Each hire should click with your previous ones. Allow your current employees to sit down with the prospective employee and just have a simple conversation, asking them about the job. This is a quick way to determine how the new employee will fit within the team.

Related: 5 Ways to Recruit Rock-Star Employees on a Budget  

2. Give it time. As a business owner, naturally you'll want to pay close attention to your company's culture and how employees impact it individually. If your company's culture stays the same or improves, you've made a strong hire. But if the culture is damaged then you might need to reconsider your decision.

3. Be honest. If you ever have to fire friends, I personally believe it's best to be completely honest, so they don't make the same mistakes in the future. In the nicest way possible, I told him that he was damaging the company's culture by overstepping his boundaries and constantly complaining about his pay.

Related: 4 Steps for Handling a Key Employee’s Departure 

4. Do what's best for you. Employee number two and I haven't spoken since. At the end of the day, you need to consider which is more important: your business or your friend. I chose my business.

In the end, you'll need to be honest, compassionate and gentle when firing a friend. Hopefully, though, if you're careful from the start, you won't ever need to face this unfortunate predicament.

What's been your experience with either hiring or firing a friend? Let us know with a comment.

**Apply Now** Are you an enthusiastic college- or graduate-student entrepreneur, eager to share your on-campus experiences? Apply to be a College Treps columnist.

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Sean Haglund is the Owner/CEO of Soccer Genome LLC, a soccer training company in Raleigh, N.C., which he started his junior year of college. He also works at Hewlett-Packard. Haglund has a passion for entrepreneurial ventures, and enjoys helping others reach their startup goals. In his spare time he loves to spend time with his wife Abbey and his two dogs, Rascal and Daisy.

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