Why Hiring Your Friends Could Be the Best Thing for Your Startup

July 4, 2016, 1:00 AM UTC
Friends Cast 2006
FRIENDS -- Pictured: (l-r) Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Matt Le Blanc as Joey Tribbiani -- Photo by: David Bjerke/NBCU Photo Bank
Photograph by David Bjerke — NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What should you do when your friends ask you to hire them?” is written by Eric Breon, founder and CEO of Vacasa.

Many entrepreneurs tend to recruit good friends and former colleagues to help get new ventures off the ground. The commonly cited adage is to avoid going into business with friends and family, but I’ve never followed this advice. Whether you’re a fledgling founder or a startup veteran, working with people you know and trust can be a solid strategy. Vacasa has had a strong referral culture from the beginning, and that culture continues to connect us with brilliant, hardworking people at every level.


Known commodities are safe investments

Hiring your friends makes sense for the simple reason that friends are a known commodity. You know their strengths and weaknesses. You know, based on your past experiences with them, whether they’d be a good fit for your company. You have a good understanding of their work ethic, their passions, and their pitfalls.

If your friends are former colleagues, you’ve had direct experience with them in the workplace — a tremendous benefit. When it comes to hiring former colleagues, I’ve had a 100% success rate, and that’s no accident.

Just be wary of recruiting friends you don’t know quite as well. While you may enjoy someone’s company in a casual social setting, you may not have a good sense of their work ethic if you don’t know them well enough. Polished and professional doesn’t always equal passionate and driven.


Nepotism isn’t all bad

When I launched my company back in 2009, I hired several capable friends and former colleagues who showed interest in my idea. Because they also had the benefit of trusting both me and the company’s mission, I generally paid them far less than they were making previously while the company was getting off the ground. As a result, we benefited from skills and expertise that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford at that stage of our growth.

Though the benefits were clear, I was still hesitant to hire friends and former colleagues during this early stage. These hires — who were already thriving in their respective fields — were putting their careers on the line because they believed in an idea. In these cases, it’s important to be very confident about your venture and its direction before bringing new people on board, unless they’re already at a natural point of transition.

Related: The 4 Things You Must Do Before You Hire a Friend

Trust your network

As your company grows, you’ll need to reach outside your immediate network to find the talent and expertise you’re looking for, but you can do this while still maintaining a strong referral culture. At Vacasa, many of our employees are hired because other employees recommended them. In my experience, this happens naturally when people are excited about the work they do.

Whatever qualities you’re looking for as you build your team — entrepreneurial spirit, a solution-driven attitude, passion over polish — you’ll recognize those qualities in people you know well and have worked with before. That’s why I recommend working with people you already know, like, and admire — known commodities who will help your venture succeed.