The do’s and don’ts of hiring family

I cherish family. My parents taught me to value and nurture relationships with my siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Growing up, my second cousin was my best friend. My aunt and I spent a lot of time together. My brother was best man in my wedding. In this transient and digital world in which we live, family can be the anchor that moors us to our past and serve as a compass for our future.
I also love my businesses. I gained great experience working for my dad’s business through high school and college. As a serial entrepreneur, I have started and grown several businesses over the past decade, which has allowed me more freedom to spend time with my wife and children. And there’s nothing that makes me more proud than to give my two oldest children the opportunity to learn and earn at my company as they work through high school and college.
Because family is so important to me, I have chosen to include them all along the way. I still talk out my decisions with my dad and mom. My father and I started a publishing company together in 2003. I put my brother at the helm of the media company I founded in 2007. My brother-in-law is the business manager. My sister-in-law is one of our web editors. My oldest daughter works for me in marketing and my oldest son in the advertising department.
Out of a dozen family members who have worked for my companies over the years, I still employ six of them. Of those who are no longer employed, only one left less than amicably.
If you are considering a family member for a leadership position, this person should meet three requirements.
First, they should have already proven themselves in their field. Have they successfully served in a similar position at another company? A degree can be helpful, but I recommend someone that has to be recruited. For example, my brother was the CEO of a successful non-profit organization before I recruited him to work for me. I know he can do the job, not just because his degree in business management says he can.
Second, they should love and care about your business as much as you do. The last thing you want is to hire an unemployed family member just because they’re looking for a job. Entitlement tends to accompany those unfortunate souls. You need people on your team who will treat the company as well as you do, and nurture it’s growth like it is their own because they care about it as much as you do, not those who are looking for an easy handout.
Finally, they should be able to compartmentalize their roles. They need to know when to wear the family hat and when to wear the employee hat. Blurring these lines can be frustrating and even disastrous, for both parties.
After giving numerous chances, I finally had to fire one family member who couldn’t separate his roles between executive and family member. He occasionally used the company debit card as his personal card and felt free to undermine my leadership around the office. Criticizing my decisions inevitably came up at holiday festivities.
Someone who cannot respect your authority despite familial ties cannot be successful long-term in your company.
Hiring a high schooler or college student is not as risky. Younger family members can bring a lot of fresh ideas and enthusiasm into your business — especially when it comes to harnessing technology trends and utilizing social media effectively. Internships have a definite beginning and end, providing them with great resume experience, and an out for you if it’s not working well. Simply let the internship expire, everyone moves on, and no one gets hurt feelings.

In conclusion, do hire a family member if they are qualified for the position, passionate about your product or service, and able to switch roles on and off the clock. Don’t hire a family member just because they need a job or because you don’t want to make the effort to recruit and interview.

Brandon Vallorani is a practiced entrepreneur and accomplished CEO. He is the founder of Liberty Alliance, LLC, a network of conservative news web sites, which has been recognized by the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest growing privately owned businesses every year since 2012, and Vallorani Estates, a luxury brand of fresh-roasted coffee, wine and cigars.