Seeds I read a Des Moines Register article this past week on a young man who is starting a business while employed by another company.  According to the SBA deputy director in Iowa this happens frequently.  I must say that I greatly admire anyone who has the courage and desire to start their own business. But my question is whether this is good for employers?

This is not an easy question.  On the one hand it is important for an employee to grow and allowing an employee to create a business on his or her own time may in fact create a more productive and happy employee.  Particularly if the employee is starting a business that is different than the employer and they do it on their own time there may be no harm.

On the other hand, an employer pays an employee to do their job.  The employee’s allegiance should be to the employer as long as that employee is receiving wages and other job benefits, right?

I must confess that I am not sure whether there is a right answer and it probably depends on the circumstances.  I am aware of many successful companies that draft policies that prohibit outside business activities while many other successful companies provide an environment that encourages employees to start their own companies.

One important risk in allowing employees to start businesses while on the employer’s dime is the potential for the employer to start a similar business and steal clients.  This should be prevented.  One way to do this is with a non-compete agreement.  Other ways employers can protect themselves is through the use of confidentiality and non-solicitation agreements

But employers may want to read this article on what to do when an employee betrays you.  Unfortunately, many employees are not as upfront and honest as the young man in the Register article.  Employees have a legal obligation to act in the employer’s best interests.  If an employee breaches this duty an employer may have an enforceable right.

Photo on flickr by Burpee Gardens.