You've no doubt been warned about the perils of doing business with friends and family. However, when the perfect person for the project happens to be in your inner circle, it's important to keep an open mind about hiring. By taking some precautions you can maximize the benefit of knowing skilled folk and avoid damaging relationships.
When we were in the early stages of starting CoCo & Co, a mobile business selling fresh coconuts and coconut products (launching in early May), we decided to design and build most of our equipment. Our community rallied around to support us and our qualified friends offered their services. Our carts, tools, website,and packaging were all designed by leaders in their respective fields, who also happen to be friends or family. In some cases it worked out well and in others it cost us significant time, money and heartache.
Here are some tips based on lessons we learned to help you make the decision when your friends come calling.
Gauge professionalism and commitment
You have already determined that they're perfectly skilled for what you need, but are they going to commit fully and deliver on time? Will your project get pushed to the lowest priority if higher paying or more assertive clients come along? It’s possible that you have seen the way they work with others. If you are treated informally or to a lesser standard, back away quickly and politely.
Lay out expectations
It’s on you to know what you want. The biggest mistake we made was casually spit balling ideas with our friends and/or hires and failing to confirm design details. Because we were dealing with people we knew well, we thought we were on the same page and trusted them to work with us to make our vision a reality. But this wasn't always the case, and when our visions didn't align, we were forced into straining redesigns. This isn’t the way we would have worked with strangers, which was our failing. Professionalism is a two-way street, and if you wish to work with friends and family, it’s your responsibility to come to the table prepared.
Ensure the schedule requirements are clear
Give strict, serious deadlines. You can be generous with the amount of time but not lax about dates. We had the best success with friends when we gave them double the amount of time we thought they would need but enforced those deadlines unflinchingly.
Consider the budget
Talk about compensation immediately. If they explicitly say they don’t want to take any money, make sure they understand that it still needs to follow the schedule you set out from the get go. In these cases, we were inclined to offer skill trades or cut them in on profits from their designs to add value to their favors.
A major component of our company is curating hyper-positive experiences and we’ve been lucky enough to build a vast network of friends. When we decide to work with them, we’ve learned not to mess up these relationships up by being informal. Clear, professional attitudes allow friendships to survive long after projects are over.