The Best Place to Find Good Employees is Close to Home

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” – Jane Howard

I recently spent weeks trying to find someone to fill a part-time position. After a lot of time and money invested, we hired someone who was thrilled to work for us, came on board, and did a crackerjack job . . . for a week . . . and then quit to take another, better job.

How often does this happen? Well, let’s just say that of the half-dozen people I hired in the past two years, only two are still working for me. Even so, my overall record is better than average. I attribute this to one hiring practice I’ve used over the years that has had nearly perfect success: hiring family members and friends. Although it runs contrary to the advice given in most business textbooks, this has worked wonders for me.

The idea is not only to hire your smartest, most hard working, and most diligent friends and relatives but also to hire the friends and family members of your best employees. Birds of a feather tend to flock together — and nowhere is this truer than in work habits.

In the very building I’m writing this from, more than half of the employees (which total fewer than 30 people) are friends or relatives of either me or one of my employees. All of these people are reliable and productive. Some are standout performers . . . superstars.

When you hire a friend or relative, you know (or someone you trust knows) that person. So you have a much better chance of knowing whether he/she will be suited for the job.

This also works the other way around. When you are recruited by a friend or relative to work for a business he/she works for, you can expect that your compatibility with the business and the job will have been thought about before you were made the offer.

Whenever I am looking for a new employee, I let everyone in the office know about the opening and make a specific request for help in filling it. I’ve found that I get a good deal of cooperation with a request of this sort — perhaps because employees are flattered to be consulted on such critical decisions — and that the person who makes the successful recommendation works overtime to make sure it works.

There are, admittedly, dangers involved in hiring a friend or relative. A good relationship might sour. To avoid that, I recommend the following:

1. Don’t let a friend or relative work directly for you. Have him/her report to someone else.

2. Let your friend/relative know beforehand that he will be treated as an employee during work, not as a friend. If he objects to that, don’t hire him.

3. Keep your priorities straight. Friendship and family are more important than business. To have the advantage of a friend or relative working for you, be prepared to pay a hefty buyout price (to save the friendship) if things don’t work out.

That said, when it comes to developing a star-studded workforce, spend as much time as possible shopping your neighborhood.