Former Employee becomes a Rival Without a Non-Compete Agreement — What Should I Do

Here’s an unusual but not unheard of situation. A team member leaves your company only to go off and form a rival business. Making matters worse, there’s no non-compete agreement in place. Perhaps you never considered one, or thought it unnecessary. Whatever the case, your former employee is now a direct competitor — so, what should you do?

Legal Action might Not be the Best Action

The reflexive answer might be to sue. However, this will be very costly and challenging. Without an explicit non-compete agreement, you’ll have to prove with documented evidence that he or she used proprietary methods, and/or work product, and/or more, in order to start his or her business and poach customers. In other words, it will be a very expensive and uphill proposition that doesn’t have more than a 50/50 chance of succeeding.

When the employer faces a worker that engages in certain activities, he or she may need to sue the person for the actions that lead to the individual becoming a competitor. Many of these circumstances involve the employee acting in direct violation of company policy or the state or federal laws by stealing information from the company or poaching clients. —

That means you’ll have to find another way to deal with the situation. Since you’re probably not going to persuade him or her to give up their newfound success, or come back to work for you, what alternatives are there? Well, it really depends on your relationship as it stands now.

How to Deal with an Ex-Employee Who is Now a Competitor

When a former employee becomes a competitor, it can stir up a number of emotions. You might feel proud, if this was the plan all along. But, if it came out of the blue, chances are excellent that you will feel angry and even cheated. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with an ex-employee who becomes a business rival:

  • Talk about establishing some mutual boundaries. Although there was no arrangement in-place prior to his or her departure, that doesn’t mean that you can’t come to some agreement now. Speak with him or her about establishing some ground rules. Perhaps, you both can offer different variations of what is essentially the same within the industry. For instance, you take on one type of client, why he or she takes on another. Or, you agree not to cross certain geographic boundaries.
  • Form a strategic alliance. Here’s another idea — work together, yet separately. If the above suggestion isn’t feasible, then there’s no reason you can’t work together, behind-the-scenes. For example, you might be able to serve clients in one capacity, while he or she serves them in another. Yet another alternative is to work in tandem, where you pick up where he or she isn’t available, and vice-versa.
  • Shift your focus. This just might give you the opportunity you’ve been waiting for, for some time. You can look at it as a blessing in disguise to transition from one business model to another. Perhaps you’ve wanted to take the company in a different direction, but have been unable to fill the void. Now, there’s someone to do just that, freeing you to pursue new things.

What other suggestions do you have to deal with such a situation? Please take a moment to share your thoughts and experiences so others can benefit from your prospective!

Interested in learning more about business? Then just visit Waters Business Consulting Group.

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