It happens a lot. Your business is growing, you add a newer agent to your team and show them the ropes, and share with them the inner workings of your business. And when they’ve earned their wings, they strike out on their own, to start their own successful team as a competitor. Now the secrets that made your business great are being used to help a competing agent.
What can you do?
Not a lot. While non-compete agreements may discourage former employees from poaching your clients, the agreements are hard to enforce. In fact, the cost of doing so may outweigh any money you may lose when an employee jumps ship. The problem is also one that entrepreneurs in most industries face.
However, even if you can’t do much about it, there are some steps you can take.
Talk To Your Team
Let your other team members know what is going on (without being petty and gossipy of course – that won’t help build your team’s confidence in you). Talk to each agent one on one to keep the problem from spreading. In these meetings you have a chance to see how the rest of your team is feeling, helping to ensure that there aren’t deeper problems in the way you run your business or that others aren’t planning to strike out on their own as well.
Get In Touch With Your Clients
Before your new competitor has any chance to reach out to your client base, do so yourself. You don’t need to explain the situation – in fact it’s better not to do so. But this is a good time to check in, especially if you’ve developed relationships with any of your clients. It will serve as a friendly reminder that you’re still available when needed.
Make Better Hiring Choices
When you’re focused on growth, it’s easy to get blinded by quantity over quality. As you hire a replacement for your lost team member, be extra focused on finding someone who fits your goals and values. And if your employees feel like they can grow along with the company, they’re more likely to stay.
As stated above, non-compete agreements can be hard to enforce, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Staff members should sign a simple confidentiality and non-competitive agreement, limiting what team members can do for a reasonable and specific period of time. You may ask an employee to agree not to use a particular vendor for a year, or to agree not to contact clients earned through your team.
The best way to stop employees from leaving is to create an environment and working relationship that they don’t want to leave behind. At the same time, make smart decisions that protect you and your business and you’ll be happy you did.