Any person working on a business while employed by another company must be extremely careful while working on their idea or risk potentially devastating financial consequences, one legal expert warns, following a recent unfair dismissal decision. The Fair Work Commission found drain and sewage technology company Pipe Hunter unfairly dismissed two employees who had registered a company name, with the owner arguing the pair were preparing to open a competing business. The case represents a common issue for employers – staff leaving a company having been so well-trained that they open a competitor and perform extremely well. The owner of Pipe Hunter, Nat Dunn, was contacted by SmartCompany this morning but declined to comment. The Fair Work Commission heard both Daniel Mahoney and Anthony Russell were terminated on September 12th, 2012. The company alleged the applicants – based on the act of the pair registering a company name – were planning to open a competing business. But the Commission ruled there was no valid reason for the termination, saying there was no proof the pair had “deliberately set out to undermine the business”, or even entice existing clients of Pipe Hunter. Both men were awarded 16 weeks’ pay as compensation. M + K Lawyers principal Andrew Douglas says this is a common issue, with many entrepreneurs opting to start on a new business “on the side” while working for another employer. Douglas says there are certain rules about what can or cannot be done. “Workers owe a duty to their employer, and that includes dedicating 100% of their time to the work they do, and they shouldn’t do anything which would be in conflict with that.” “The employer in this case alleges the employees were going to usurp the business prior to the end of employment. In contractual law that would be a breach of duty.” However, Douglas points out the pair had only registered a company name, and on their own time. “Therefore, there was no valid reason [for termination],” he says. “Even if the company was right, it still would have lost the case because there was no procedural fairness,” he says. If the pair had spent company time or assets registering that company name, it would be a different story, Douglas says. “If an employee utilises business assets to compete against an employer, that is a breach of good faith,” he says. He points out using assets including computers and even phones to form a company while working at another employer can be enough to constitute a breach of good faith. “I’ve seen spreadsheets for companies made on Excel while at the previous employer, cases have brought up hundreds of emails, changes to LinkedIn profiles, and a whole range of behaviour that occurs during work time.” “These assets are usually designated for private use, which would be something like telling your wife you’re going to be home late.” There is also a financial risk to consider. Douglas says if a business finds out employees have been working on a business using company assets – even when the new business has been established – it can demand to see an account of profits. “That account would be the gross profit from the work undertaken as a result of working on that company. That’s the killer, and it will be a big disadvantage to the new company.”
So you have your website, a Facebook Page, a Twitter account… but do you have a LinkedIn account? And if you do, are you keeping it up to date? Recently, I've noticed a lot more engagement taking place within the platform, such as sharing of content, commenting and activity within discussion groups. LinkedIn has really shifted over the past year from being a tool for job-seekers to a tool for networking and content discovery. Creating new, relevant connections is a great benefit from using LinkedIn, and for start-up businesses the ability to connect with potential partners, investors, suppliers and customers is second to none. Here are my top five tips for using LinkedIn: 1. Upload a profile picture This one should be obvious, but the number of profiles I see without a photo is astounding. When using a platform where building relationships is key, you should humanise your profile with a picture, just as you would Facebook or Twitter. Ensure that the photo you choose fits the professional nature of LinkedIn and clearly shows your face (head and shoulders is ideal). 2. Don't use your job title as your headline Sell yourself and your capabilities by expanding here. For example, 'Eco-friendly Product Specialist, Homewares Designer and Owner at eHome Design’ is better than just ‘Owner at eHome Design’. Sometimes your headline and name will be the only thing a person sees while they’re browsing LinkedIn – make sure you capitalise on the space you get here. 3. Join groups Networking is one of the greatest strengths of using LinkedIn and this is a great place to start. Groups also stimulate great debate and conversations, a fantastic way of staying in the loop within your industry or area of interest. There are also plenty of small business groups which will connect you with other entrepreneurs. The ability to learn from their knowledge and experience is invaluable. And you don’t even have to leave your desk to go to a networking event! 4. Share useful and relevant content Position yourself as a subject matter expert by sharing content on your LinkedIn profile that is interesting and relevant. For example, the Owner of eHome Design would share an article about the importance of not having chemicals in the home. If you create your own original content (e.g. you have a blog) you can be posting this as well as sharing third-party content. 5. Keep your profile current and login regularly! A LinkedIn profile is not a resume any more, as it might once have seemed. It should be a living, breathing representation of your professional life that is constantly being updated and tended to. One of my biggest tips is that the first thing you should do after a business meeting is connect with those who were present on LinkedIn. Aim to share content or participate in group discussions 2-3 times a week. You will be amazed with the value of the connections you make and information you acquire. Have you made any valuable connections for your business through LinkedIn?
Australian entrepreneurs are being encouraged to write a 25-word submission for the chance to sit on a panel with Sir Richard Branson at a University of Queensland Business School event.
It’s important to clarify that not every start-up needs to use social media for customer service.
As we outlined recently, Twitter is the fastest growing social network in the world, while Facebook is still picking up considerable numbers of new users despite seemingly reaching saturation point.
The average age of companies that the owners sell at more than $1 billion is seven years, according to US venture capitalist Jacob Mullins, who has revealed the common characteristics of $1 billion consumer tech companies.
This article first appeared on June 26th, 2012. “If you're not embarrassed by your first product release, you've released too late,” wrote LinkedIn founder and start-up guru, Reid Hoffman.
Buying Twitter followers, Facebook fans or email lists often seems like the easy option.
I had lunch with some close friends of mine who own a gym.
Old Taskmaster has just spent part of the morning perusing LinkedIn, My Career, Seek and other major jobs websites.
Engaging in social media is essential if you run a start-up. It allows you to connect to your customers quickly and cheaply and find out what they think about your products and services.
I love LinkedIn. It’s the best tool for professional networking by far. As an owner of a recruitment agency and an entrepreneur, my time and spend has shifted towards LinkedIn.
I remember being on a summer holiday at age nine just after Christmas, and hearing adults talk about their New Year's resolutions. I liked the idea that you could set a challenge for yourself for a whole year.
We know that starting an online business can allow for a faster launch than traditional bricks and mortar businesses.
This article first appeared on June 27th, 2012. As a busy mumpreneur, finding the time and sometimes the budget to market your business can be a struggle.
This article first appeared on December 21st, 2011. Is it ever a good idea to get a third party to build my Facebook/Twitter presence, or should I do it all myself?
PushStart mentor Alex North has offered some advice to start-ups looking for tech talent to build their idea, insisting every start-up must argue the case for why their business will be successful.
This article first appeared on December 11th, 2011. Is it illegal or immoral to turn up at another business’ Christmas party and poach their staff? Let’s handle the legalities first.
The business outlook is brighter for SMEs in 2013, according to the latest MYOB research findings, but micro businesses will continue to do it tough and have been urged to plan ahead.
I'm writing today from the plane travelling between San Francisco and New York.