Your business idea is the foundation of your business, brand or company. It is obviously your business secret and as such it’d needs to be protected from intruders . Having your business idea in the wrong hands can be devastating and a threat to your business. In today’s technology world and information viral, it is much easier than ever for your business ideas to be stolen.
How then can you protect your business ideas from being stolen? This is what we will be looking at in this article.
First of all, you need to understand that the risk can come from an internal source and that includes employees in your company. It can be from external sources too, that is other persons outside your company. So the tips in this article will be divided into tips to protect against internal and external sources.
Protecting Your Business Idea from Being Stolen By Internal Persons
1. Conduct Background Check on every member of your Team
One way to protect your business ideas from being stolen by internal sources is to always carry out a background check on your employees. There are a lot of companies that specialize in carrying out background checks on persons for a small fee.
You can reach out to them to carry out a check on all prospective employees before you bring them on board. This may require an extra cost from you though, but it is better to play safe than hope on damage control. Check out your prospect’s work history, criminal history, and other vital details. Once you sense a red light, let the person go immediately.
2. Make Sure Everyone on your Team Signs a Non-Disclosure Agreement
Even after a background check, you need to get your employees to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Non-Disclosure is an agreement with your employee not to reveal trade secrets to a third party. This helps to keep all your employees in check and to prohibit them from selling your business ideas to another company. Most times, the Non-Disclosure agreement remains effective even when the employee moves to a new company.
3. Offer Incentives to Keep your Team Happy and Motivated
One way to prevent the temptation of your employees selling out your business idea is to offer them incentives. Always provide them with interesting incentives for every hard work they put into the company. Also make each of your employees feel that the company depends on him or her to succeed, even when it doesn’t. In a nutshell, make your employees feel important to the company. This way, they will be immune to the temptation of selling off your business ideas to a third party.
4. Take Extra Precautions
Always limit the amount of information you let on to an employee. Take extra precaution to keep your very vital business information a secret especially from new and low level employees. You never can tell who will fall into the temptation of selling off your business ideas for quick extra cash. Also ensure that your business information is stored with hack-proof storage systems. You can also take out insurance cover for your business ideas as an extra precaution to avoid theft.
Protecting your Business Ideas from Being Stolen By External Sources
i. Get your Suppliers of Trade Partners to Sign a Non-Compete Agreement
Non-Compete Agreement is an agreement between a company and its external suppliers to ensure that they don’t sell off the company’s secret to competitors. If your company uses the services of external supply companies or service companies, always ensure that you get them to sign a Non-Compete Agreement. This way, you can institute a legal action against the company if they sell out your business secrets to a competitor.
ii. Register a Patent
Another way to protect your business ideas from external sources is to register your business idea as a patent. The process of getting a patent for your business idea may take a little time and it can be quite expensive, starting from $10,000, so the best alternative is to get a conditional patent.
A Conditional Patent can serve as a protection for your business ideas for starters until you complete the patent process. It is advisable that you get at least a conditional patent even before your commence your business especially if it is in a novelty area.
iii. Consult A Legal Expert
Always get a lawyer involved every step of the way from the business idea stage to the business launch. A legal expert has the requisite skills to provide advice on the best possible ways to protect your business ideas from being stolen. Also, lawyers have a professional ethics not to disclose client information to a third party, thus your business secrets are always safe with your lawyer.
iv. Avoid Full Disclose When You Pitch to Investors
If you are starting your business on a tight budget or seeking to get a loan, there may be the need for you to pitch your idea to friends and investors. Always be careful with the amount of information you let out as you pitch your ideas.
Disclose just the vital information you think your potential investor may need at the moment. Avoid full disclosure of your business secrets because there have been many instances where business ideas were stolen by so-called potential investors. Any investor insisting that you make full disclosure of all your business secrets before he can invest in your idea should not be trusted.
v. Register A Trademark: A trademark works same as a patent. So, you can register your business idea as a trademark to protect it from being stolen from a third party.
vi. Follow Your Instincts: We all have this natural instinct that tends to tick once something doesn’t feel right. Following your instinct can also protect your business ideas from getting into the wrong hands. For instance, if one of your friends or colleagues becomes persistent to know how you do what you do, your instincts should tell you that it is fatal to disclose such information to the person.
These are some of the vital ways you can protect your business ideas from getting into the wrong hands. Also, as a proactive measure, if you get wind of the fact that your business secrets have gotten into the wrong hands, report to the patent commission immediately or take out a court injunction to prevent the person or company from using your information.