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The company you are working for is faltering. You and a co-worker have ideas  about...

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lcowan6 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted September 3, 2013 at 11:38 AM via web

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The company you are working for is faltering. You and a co-worker have ideas  about how to make a company like your boss's suceed and consider quitting and starting your own company.  Would you try to lure your old boss's customers to your own customers?  Why or why not?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 3, 2013 at 2:30 PM (Answer #1)

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I would not directly try to lure customers away from my old firm.  If the firm actually did fail, I would certainly go after its customers very hard.  However, until that happened, I would not do anything that could be construed as using the knowledge that I have about my old firm’s customers to lure them away.

The first thing to realize is that you can get yourself in legal trouble if you are not very careful.  Most states have laws that prevent you from taking “trade secrets” with you when you leave a firm.  This has been construed to include client lists.  This means that you clearly cannot take the list of clients from your firm and start contacting them, trying to get them to come with you to your new firm. 

What this means is that you will have to be much more indirect about how you go about trying to attract your old clients.  If you have clients that you work with, you will need to tell them that you are not working with them anymore.  When you tell them that, you can also say that you are going to be starting your own business.  You should not ask them to come with you.  If they like you and your work, they will contact you.  Another thing that you could do is to take out ads, particularly in trade papers or other things that your clients are likely to read.  By doing this, you can ensure that they will know how to contact you if they wish to come with you.

There is nothing unethical or illegal about letting people know, in a generic way, that you are setting up your own business.  It could be both unethical and illegal, however, to directly pursue clients from your old firm.

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