I know what it’s like.
You’ve been job hunting forever (and ever).
Finally, you land a gig that is the perfect fit (for right now).
You can relax a bit. You’re beyond ready for that first paycheck. You don’t even mind that your new company has a three week waiting period…
In the frenzy and excitement of new jobship, you can’t wait to sign those papers. All of the papers. Yesss.
When you sign that dotted line the stress line that’s slowly been staking its claim on your forehead will start to slowly fade. You might even treat yourself to something new. Because three weeks really isn’t that far away after all.
But, I digress.
Before you do all of that. I need you to take a closer look at those documents. I’m not suggesting that you refuse to sign. I’m suggesting that you slow down, read the dirty details, ask questions if you need too, and don’t be afraid to negotiate where necessary. And, I’m not talking about negotiating salary. Because you’re a beast. You’ve got that part handled.
I’m talking about negotiating anything that you see on those agreements that may hurt your ability to launch your business later. The hardcore truth is that your employer is not going to budge on some things. In that situation, at least ask clarifying questions so you know your limitations up front. Make sure you know the full picture.
Here are three things that you absolutely must pay attention to in your employment agreement.
A non-solicitation clause is a restriction in most employment agreements that restricts you from soliciting business from your employer’s customers or clients, vendors, other employees and more than likely a bunch of other folks. Make sure you familiarize yourself with whatever is laid out in your agreement and put those folks on a Do Not Contact list. You don’t want any slip-ups at all. Non-solicitation clauses typically apply for the time while you’re working at the company, and for a period after you leave. Sometimes companies have a really long no-solicit period, so take a look at that, and make sure it works for your entrepreneurial goals.
A no-compete is what most peeps are typically familiar with. It’s a restriction on your right to engage in business that would compete with your employer. Now, these can be tricky because of how the company defines what constitutes competition. They may try to include everything under the sun. Also, no-competes apply to a certain geographic territory. For example, it may say that you are limited from doing competing for business within the same county, or a 40-mile radius. Lastly, a no compete will also have a time period attached to it (just like the non-solicitation). It will apply to the period of time that you’re working for the company but also will extend to a time period after you leave. Review all of these details and make sure they work for you.
Check to see if the documents you’ve been asked to sign include an Invention (or intellectual property) Assignment. It may be included in an employment agreement, employment letter, or a separate document altogether. It will reveal if your employer will actually be considered the owner of any intellectual property you create while employed. If there is no assignment document (or language), that’s a good thing. If not, your employer may own your intellectual property because of the default law of your state (usually stating that if the IP is related to the reason that you were hired then the employer owns it).
I want to give you one huge tip about anything you may have created before starting your job.
If you have pre-existing inventions or creative work relating to the work you’ll do with the company, make sure these are excluded from any assignments that you sign. These are the sorts of issues that I encourage you to discuss with an attorney in your state (I’m in Illinois and only can only work with clients in my state on these sorts of issues).
As I mentioned before, planning and strategy are key to launching a business while working (hint: The Quit Kit will help you out tremendously). As you map out your plan, allow time to resolve legal issues like these that need to be sorted out before you launch. My goal is to give you some of the critical information so you can build out your master plan. Dealing with it on the back end, after an issue comes up, is always more expensive.
If you hang around for a while, you’ll hear me talk about “legal strategy” often. Legal strategy is about making legal and business decisions aligned with your big picture goal, and not piecemeal decisions that will limit you long term. Most times when people discuss the “legal stuff” it’s from the angle of “fixing” problems or keeping you out of “trouble.”
I’m interested in more than that.
The law can help you achieve your wildest entrepreneurial vision so you aren’t bound to trading dollar for hour.
But getting there starts with regularly keeping an eye on the details.
Do you need help navigating the legalities of your day job while launching a business? Let’s chat.