Betrayal in business is a loss of trust and tarnished loyalty. An act of betrayal creates an array of negative behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in both its victims and its perpetrators. Someone who betrays others is commonly called a traitor or betrayer.

This article written over 10 years ago “Taking Customers with You When You Start a Business” in Entrepreneur notes if you’ve decided to break off on your own and launch a business that’s competition to your former employer (no matter what your status), you should heed words of wisdom from a business law expert.

Did A Former Employee Steal Your Clients, IP or Trade Secrets?

In the USA there is a “Uniform Trade Secrets Act” and most western countries also abide by similar laws. Trade Secret has three elements: 1. information, 2. that derives economic value from not being known by the public, and 3. reasonable measures to keep it a secret. Confidential Information or Trade Secrets may have other names, such as: customer lists, customer database, customer data, customer account information, client and prospect lists, client data, intellectual property (IP), other proprietary trade secrets.

This means that you’re prohibited from stealing “trade secrets” including clients and using them for your own benefit, even without a written agreement with the owner or company.   BTW, The Hyena Photo above is from MentalFloss 7 Species That Steal: Don’t believe everything you see, even the hyenas in the Disney classic, The Lion King. Hyenas are skeevy flea-bags all too ready to steal from another animal.

Does client and “trade secret” stealing happen? Sadly, yes. And it this time of year, it is like Dr. Seuss’ book and Disney movie, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.


If you work closely with a client and develop a relationship but you did not market to get the client they are not your client. If the marketing for the client was not yours but you “closed the deal” meaning you sold that client their service or product, they are not your client.

If a prospect does not buy immediately and you follow up with them on your own and offer a similar service/product as the same or similar price or even lesser price, then you are soliciting and in effect, stealing the prospect that another company has paid to get on their prospective customer list and most probably has plans to contact this person as part of their marketing campaign in the future.

Did A Former Employee Use Your Clients in Advertising Testimonials?

You are not permitted to start contacting your employer’s customers for your own business – Good for you to “get out on your own” but – while still employed – do not contact customers of your soon-to-be former employer to use their likeness in advertising, testimonials, videos or do not offer your new service to your employer’s prospects while still working under an arrangement with the employer. That would be a breach of the duty of loyalty while you represent the company, and a potential reason for your employer to sue you to (1) recover what he or she paid you while you were in that way acting against your employer’s interests, and (2) stop you from enjoying any “fruits” of your improper behavior, that is, selling more to those customers you prematurely and improperly solicited (as well as prospects on a list gained by paid advertising and marketing by the employer).

Did A Former Employee Poach Clients and Betray You?

Often betrayal is the complete break from presumed norms by one party from the other. Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence by that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship. This is a painful sting especially when you think you are also “friends” and not just colleagues. And even more painful when they try to steal other employees to join them in their competing business.

The betrayal interactions are complex. The victims exhibit anger and confusion, and demand atonement from the perpetrator; who in turn may experience guilt or shame, and exhibit remorse. If, the betrayer does not atone, there may be legal action. In this world of online business, people working from different countries, your employer could pay you as an independent contractor. Either way, your integrity should be your guide. The legal actions most likely apply if you betray and steal. #Beware

Thanks to Wikipedia and Entrepreneur magazine and other online sources but the REAL INSPIRATION for this post is someone who previously was thought to have integrity. This person has broken trust. They shall remain nameless but their misappropriation and stealing, who they are and how they operate in business and as a person has dropped to the lowest of low levels. This person has violated the most simple of duties: The Duty of Loyalty prohibits an employee from competing against an employer while employed.

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We tip our hat to the person who has been the victim of this type of stealing and who has acted with diplomacy and aplomb. Rising up to true Relationship Riches under the circumstances. Here is a great example to follow if you/your company ever finds yourself in this situation and you want to reach out to your clients. Name is the betrayer, Program is the product/service, Company is well, company. Feel free to replace and modify.

[Farewell Name]

When Name and I started together, he committed to Program for X years. He kept his agreement, and has done an incredible job working here at Company.

Name and I have been talking about moving in different directions.

Now it’s time.

He’s finished up now and will head into the Christmas break and 2017 refreshed. I know you’re all grateful for the time and energy he gave you. I am too.

He’s agreed he won’t be approaching any of you due to the standard non-compete/no-poaching principles that I know we all abide by.

We’ve got big plans for expanding the program. Watch this space for exciting announcements about the new Program Team. And about new communications in the New Year.

Our business, and your business will go from strength to strength. The team and I are excited about making your next year the biggest year you’ve ever had.

More on that in the days to come.

Here’s to an extraordinary 2017 for You, for Name, and for all of us.

Signed, Owner

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