You’ve been working at ABC Co. for some time now. You have gained experience and knowledge during your employment, but you’ve caught the entrepreneurial bug. You want to start your own business. During your employment you have developed solid relationships with ABC Co. clients. You’re positive these clients would follow you if you left ABC Co. Before you do anything ask yourself the following questions:
1. Did you sign a non-compete with ABC Co.? Reasonable non-compete agreements are enforceable in Iowa. If you signed a non-compete agreement before or during your employment with ABC Co., it may be enforceable and you will want to abide by the terms of the agreement. If you have questions about the agreement, contact your attorney.
2. Do you still work for ABC Co.? If you are currently employed with ABC Co. fight the urge to solicit ABC Co. clients and/or employees. According to Iowa law employees have a duty of loyalty to their employers. Soliciting clients and/or other employees while employed violates that duty. Even an innocent conversation with a client: “Hey, I’m thinking about starting my own business, what do you think?” may be considered solicitation. It may be difficult to not ask because clients are important to the success of your new venture. But don’t do it.
3. Are you cleaning out your old office/workspace? If you have terminated your employment (or are just about to) and are in the process of cleaning out your workspace, including your computer refrain from taking with you ABC Co. information or materials that may be unique to ABC Co.. This information or material might be considered confidential or a trade secret. Leave it there.
4. Have you terminated your employment with ABC Co.? Once your employment relationship with ABC Co. has been terminated you are free to compete with ABC Co.(as long as there is no agreement otherwise). You are entitled to use general information concerning the business, including the names of clients retained in your memory. Good luck.
photo on flickr by bludgeone86