Saturday is the United Nations' International Day of Friendship, a day that's designed to "strengthen bonds among individuals and generate greater respect and understanding in our world." During these turbulent times, we certainly need more of that.

It got me to thinking about the role of friendship in the workplace, its risks and its rewards. Sure, having friends at work can make the workday more enjoyable. But entrepreneurs, look around your company. Are the people you've hired your friends? How big is the venn diagram between the personal and the professional? If the two circles are practically on top of each other, you could be making a big mistake.

We like and admire our friends for plenty of reasons, but the main one is that, generally speaking, we're attracted to people who are like us--people who have similar taste, or who share our sense of humor. When you hire your first employees it's natural to hire people who you want to hang out with. But when it's time to bring on a team of people to support your vision, you need people with a variety of skills. When I mentor entrepreneurs, I tell them to do the opposite of what seems natural: don't hire people you want to be friends with.

How can that possibly work? It has for me. I can think of many people who were key to the building of my company who I wouldn't naturally want to have a beer with. And yet, they're critical to my business--because they have things that I don't.

Here's an example of what I mean. I'm a disorganized person. I like to tell people that I work under "organized chaos." But I need someone around me who is fastidious and detailed. I have to admit, being around people like that drives me slightly nuts. But having them on board is strategically helpful to me, because they have what I lack. They are the yin to my yang.

If you limit yourself to hiring friends, you can hurt your company in ways you may not appreciate until it's too late. One entrepreneur I mentored kept hiring his friends, and woke up one day to realize that, not only was he sorely lacking in certain key business areas, but of the people he did have, he couldn't manage them because they weren't his employees, they were his buddies.

I'm not suggesting you take this advice too far and hire people you actually hate or can't work with. Ultimately, you have to manage them. They're your employees, and you can't dislike them so much that you constantly want to avoid or argue with them. But I do recommend seeking out people who are truly unlike you, to the point of whatever you can reasonably tolerate.

On the flip side of this, work can be a natural place to form true, lasting friendships. As a 22-year-old entrepreneur in 1990, I met a young, indigenous father while trekking Ecuador's tropics. This man, Delfin Pauchi, listened to my youthful dreams and shared them, seeing the potential of sustainable tourism to transform his community. Shortly after, he opened his Amazon rainforest home to our earliest customers who wanted a taste of local living, and I was off to the races. Twenty-six years later, in spite of the distance, language differences, and different ways of life, I still consider Delfin one of my most trusted and valuable friends in the business.

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When it comes to friends and work, before you can ask what you need, you first have to sit down and identify what it is you're not good at.

Entrepreneurs often think they need to do everything and handle every issue themselves. When I was in my first 10 years of building G Adventures, I privately thought, "No one is smarter than me, no one can do anything better than me." That attitude comes with youth.

The other thing to know is that when entrepreneurs aren't good at something, they tend to be insecure about it. So they don't want someone around who's better than them, at anything. Leaving that place of insecurity is extremely hard, but worth it.

It's a painful process for people with big egos (like many business owners are!) to admit where they're weak, where they're not good, where they have holes in their game. But entrepreneurs who can self-evaluate will find that, ultimately, it's the best gift you can give your company, in terms of letting go of those insecurities--and finding people who can do the things you cannot.

You might be surprised at the friendships that will follow.

Published on: Jul 29, 2016