This was some time ago when we were little and basically what happened was I remortgaged my house to fund the establishment of a new branch. This cost me £30k but my sales person in Guildford was convinced about the extension of territory and so I thought I’d support him. After 6 months he and both the girls resigned and literally next day set up in the same building taking the entire branch they’d set up with them, and two of our top clients in Guildford. My revenues plunged by a third, I was left with the debt for the establishment of this business and no means to fight the s*** in court because we were rendered skint.
Recently I had a franchise sell his goodwill to another franchise of mine – and he has after one year when she has not even paid off her loan to buy it, gone and targeted all her clients. So he’s effectively sold someone something and then stolen it back.
And this has happened quite recently in quite a high profile business that many of my friends subscribed to and it had an awful impact. The people that were employed in this business have literally stolen the content from one business and established another in mirror form. It’s pretty shocking.
But you can’t stop it. Humans can be mean and greedy and loyalty is thin on the ground. I tell you this to warn you because as you risk scaling your business it is thwarted with the risk of copying and theft – because that’s what people with thin morals and a lack of originality do. Steal, lie and cheat.
So what do you do? Build client loyalty as much as you can and provide a superlative service that is not easy to replicate. After all, if your clients cannot get from others what they can get from you then they are not going to change.
Stop treating people as friends and ensure you have legal covenants or restrictive covenants or non-compete clauses that support your services or products. And keep a war chest with which to fight the bastards that slip through. Whether through legal means or a sales campaign to propel yourselves over and above the competition, you need to go into retaliation mode and fight, which is what I do now if anybody acts outside the confines of not only our legal covenants.
And steel yourself emotionally. The first time I was betrayed – and it really does feel like that – my gosh it hurt. I have always been fair, giving and kind –I even babysat his kids once! – so to be treated like that – and for him still to be trading now – adds insult to injury. But you get over it, if you are good enough you will build a business over and above, and eventually you win. It is best to remain a little detached and somewhat expectant of this to preserve your inner you. It happens everywhere. I can count hundreds of courier companies that were borne from other courier companies where staff just walked with the client base. Just beware, make sure you cover yourself legally, have the means to fight it, and most importantly build a loyalty with your clientele or a uniqueness of your product of service delivery that your competitors cannot replicate to safeguard your business.
And good luck – and watch out – the dodgy little buggers are everywhere!