Starting a business is a long held dream for many people who are formally employed. There are many reasons for starting your own business, some which include; the desire for autonomy, increased earnings, a passion for a service or product. People are often inspired to follow through with their ideas. Starting a business is risky, which is why a great deal of people prefer to start their business whilst still fully employed; but there are lots of things to remember not to do when you take that route.
1. Using the company time
It seems extremely obvious, but surprisingly this is often the most violated rule of all. It’s often tempting to work on your own small business on company time, especially when you’re idle or feeling disgruntled about your job; resist this temptation. Not only is this highly unprofessional, but it’s also unethical. Your employer is paying you for your time and service, and using that same time to pursue personal business is tantamount to theft. It’s also perfectly legal for your employer to fire you for working on your own business during company hours.
2. Using company resources
This is another unprofessional and unethical practise employees often engage in when starting their own businesses. Using your company computer, or the company car, premises, paid for online apps and websites can land you in a great deal of trouble. Your employer’s assets are not meant to benefit your business even if you have control over these assets. This also means you are probably doing this behind your boss’ back, making it shady business. In fact, it is best to speak to your employer and reach an understanding about how to go about your business.
3. Trying to poach your employer’s clients
As tempting as this is, it’s a bad idea, and most likely illegal depending on your employment contract. Most formal contracts will have a non-compete clause, and trying to steal your employer’s clients could be construed as violating your contract. It’s also highly unprofessional and could gain you a bad reputation if you encounter people who are very ethical and professional. Trying to secure your employer’s clients means you’re trying to benefit from relationships you did not establish yourself, and trying to exploit your boss’ network.
4. Stealing the company’s Intellectual Property
This is a big one, one which people often ignore, but can have serious legal ramifications. Using or disclosing proprietary intellectual property is something to avoid. This means you have to be careful not to use your employer’s proprietary resources and information. Avoid, by all means, any patented processes or utilizing trade secrets. Ensure that your ideas are well documented and transparent. Your employer could easily sue you for damages, or issue a cease and desist order when your conduct violates the law and your contract.
5. Convincing your former colleagues to quit and join you
This happens often and sometimes in violation of your contract of employment. We spend a great deal of time with co-workers forming tight bonds, and or establishing good working relationships that could easily carryover to your new venture. Sometimes your former co-workers have just the right skills you need for the job, or are simply brilliant, and you can see how much of an asset they could be for your business. It’s easy to try hire or work with people whose skills and work ethic has already been proven rather than hunting for new people you’ve never worked with. As easy and tempting as it is, it’s a bad idea to entice colleagues to quit their jobs and join your company because it can result in costly legal battles.
Ensure that you fully understand your contract of employment and the company policy before launching your business, whilst still fully employed. Avoid using company time, resources and IP. Trying to poach your employer’s clients is also bad practice, as well as poaching former co-workers once you have resigned. Instead, it may serve you to speak to your employer about your plans and reach an understanding. Your employer may even be convinced to invest in your company, or you could establish a client and service provider relationship if appropriate. Trying to work exclusively behind your employer’s back can be seen as unethical, hence it is advisable to approach the situation with some caution.