Side work, is it a conflict of interest?
Stuart Selbst / Stuart Selbst
We’ve all done it. As IT professionals we’ve helped friends and family by fixing their computers. Some have even gotten paid for it. As an IT business owner, how do you feel when one of your full time employees does after hours computer repair service while getting a paycheck from you?
At Stuart Selbst Consulting, our partners are managed services providers; they are not in the business of doing “computer repairs.” Recently, I noticed a posting on Facebook by an employee of one of our former partners who was advertising their new business for computer repair services. After seeing this, I asked our current partners how they would feel if one of their employees started a computer repair business while working for them. I got a number of responses from, “If it is just repairing computers for individuals that fine because it isn’t the business we are in” to, “I’d hang them by their &%#.” Personally, I looked at such a venture as potentially to crossing a line between the employee and the company that they work.
As an entrepreneur myself, I can appreciate this person’s drive. But, I certainly hope the company this person works for, my former client, was given the opportunity to weigh in on this undertaking before it was launched. And, hopefully set some ground rules about what would be acceptable and what wouldn’t. In my opinion, the employee needs to stay focused on the work they do every day for the company that is giving them a paycheck. My wife and business partner feels strongly that this is a clear conflict of interest. We both find it improbable that the employee can be involved in both companies without stepping on the toes of their boss’s company.
I’ve said a million times that it is easy to start a business, but hard to run one successfully. It is also difficult to hire the right people. Once you hire them and train them, you as a business owner have invested a lot of time and money into that employee. This is one of the reasons that as consultants we highly recommend our clients have a conflicting employment clause in the employment contracts with their staff and non-solicitation agreements with their clients.
In conclusion, I want to paraphrase a quote from a partner who had a strong feeling on this issue. If I ever catch an employee offering to do jobs on the side, under the table, etc. without my approval they will be terminated immediately. Not only will the employee be terminated so will the customer.
I look forward to reading the comments of business owners and employees on this post.
All the best in success,