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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Competing for Business with a Former Employer
Imagine the scenario: you’ve been sitting behind a desk in a lonely cubical somewhere, punching numbers all day for a large accounting firm. And you’ve noticed a few things along the way… things you would do differently if you ran the place, things you would improve or expand on. Just about the time you’ve had enough of the claustrophobia, it hits you — why don’t you start your own accounting firm?
It’s a wonderful idea, but there are some things you should consider before attempting it on your own. If you don’t, you may be facing legal battles with your former employer.
The first thing you must do is see if there was a non-compete agreement anywhere on the paperwork you signed when you were hired. Basically, a non-compete agreement protects a company for a given amount of time from competition after an employee leaves.
In other words, if you signed one, you may have to wait a year or more after you leave the large accounting firm to start your small one. You are also usually prohibited from adopting trade or operation secrets or snatching up clients from your former employer.
If you signed a Non-Compete Agreement, consult an attorney before you make any moves. They are often unenforceable, depending on the terms and the state you live in. Better to be safe than sorry though.
If you get along with your current employer, and especially if you consider yourselves friends, then just be upfront with him. Tell him you are planning to leave and go off on your own into the business world. Ask for pointers on how to get started.
You might even consider asking your boss to provide you with some networking connections he may have that aren’t clients to help get you started. The more credit you give your employer for helping point you in the entrepreneurial direction, the less likely he’ll be to pursue legal action against you.
It’s also important to not tell clients you are leaving before you have, as that would be deliberately undermining your loyalty to the company. Even if you’re not loyal in your heart, refrain from causing any form of sabotage, since it could easily bite you in the rear later.
Generally, it’s just best to protect yourself and be open about your plans. Most employers will respect your boldness to step out on your own without trying to pull them down. After all they were probably once in your shoes, so they understand the appeal.
• Entrepreneur.com: Starting a Business – and Not a Legal Battle
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