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Circle of Friends

Hiring your friends can pay off for your business--if you do it right.

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This story appears in the July 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

To start your business, you may need to, as the song goes, get by with a little help from your friends. After all, who better to hire than the people you already know, love and trust? It certainly worked for Duff Goldman, the 31-year-old founder of Charm City Cakes, a specialty, high-end cake-making business in Baltimore. This seasoned chef, who began his business in 2000, needed help when he started marketing his lavish wedding and event cakes full time in 2002. "A friend called and said, 'Hey, you need help, and [our mutual friend] Jeff needs a job. You should hire him,'" recalls Goldman. Though that friend didn't have a cake-decorating background, he had the artistic ability to build architectural models. That skill and his willingness to learn made it easy for Goldman to train him.

You have to make sure your friend or friends are a good fit for your company before you hire them, notes Richard Hadden, employee-relations expert and co-author of Contented Cows Give Better Milk. "That applies whether the person is a friend, enemy or someone you have no [prior] knowledge of," he says. "But the fact that he or she is a friend should not be a qualification [by itself]."

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