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To try to obtain old clients for new business.

(46 Posts)
WhatKindofFool Mon 04-Feb-13 20:46:22

I was made redundant 6 months ago and have since set up my own business as an interior designer. I decided that I would contact my previous clients from my old firm to see if I could offer them my services. My old boss found out and is asking me to explain myself. I can understand that she is annoyed but am I being unreasonable to think that I am not answerable to her anymore?

In the 10 years that I worked for her she never paid me particularly well and she was extremely controlling. I see my redundancy as a blessing now as I can progress without her. She is retiring in 2 years and I want to capture the business that will float into the ether as she winds down.

She is rolling in money by the way, with several properties, whereas I am a single mum with 4 kids to feed.

I have put myself and my family before her but this is business and she did make me redundant.

sarahtigh Tue 05-Feb-13 14:38:52

I am self employed as a dentist and it is still illegal to use details of previous clients obtained through that business to contact them again, client details (goodwill) are the permanent property of the business owner even though you were self employed

however you have no penalty clause so she may not be able to do anything about you setting up next door but using clients details obtained while working for her she probably could sue for, technically you should have deleted all that from your PC when you stopped working for her

a penalty clause has to be reasonable generally 6-12 months but could be upto 3 years within a reasonable distance ( within a city like london this may only be 1 mile but in a rural area it could be 5 miles) generally using clients details is a permanent no-no

being self employed you were responsible for your own NI and pension contributions, you are not entitled to take action against being no longer used unless it is discrimination whether racial etc, employment law does not apply as you were not an employee so you are paid for working no paid holidays sick pay etc, you were unwise to work without a contract but being self employed she was not and is still not obliged to give you one

atacareercrossroads Tue 05-Feb-13 13:54:30

Hope so op. My workmate thought she was bullet proof because she hadn't breached her contract. Boy was she wrong

Crinkle77 Tue 05-Feb-13 11:42:24

I don't see why you would owe your old boss any explanation

andubelievedthat Tue 05-Feb-13 11:40:36

find out the worse outcome for you if you go down that route ,is it acceptable? if morals/ethics aint your bag in this situation ,question answered ?

WhatKindofFool Tue 05-Feb-13 11:28:03

atacareercrossroads Thanks for your advice and warning. She has not suffered any loss at this point. I will heed your warning though!

WhatKindofFool Tue 05-Feb-13 11:25:33

If you're talking to her clients about her like you're talking about her on here I would expect she'll take some action.
I have not suggested that I have done that.

Blistory Tue 05-Feb-13 11:14:28

For many business, the client base is a significant part of the goodwill. It gives value to the business. Generally significant time and costs are incurred in building up a client base between advertising, networking, customer service et etc. It's not really ethical for you to come in on the back of all of that and specifically poach clients only known to you by virtue of your former working relationship with her.

You could well be in breach of Data Protection and implied customer confidentiality policies by contacting them - they may not like that you as an individual have retained their personal details and are now trying to use them.

You may think it's fair payback but think of the damage she can do your reputation. The 'business is business' rule is somewhat old fashioned and can do significant harm, particularly if your client base is private individuals.

I would approach her and see if there is anyway you can accommodate each other. If she's looking to retire, she could pass business your way for a small introductory fee. She could sell you the clientbase. She could pass you work that she can't do in return for you doing likewise. You could buy her out.

In business, your reputation is everything and given that this is a new venture for you, why jeopardise it simply to take the easy and unethical route ?

But at least now you're aware of the risks of anyone you employ doing exactly the same thing and can steps to minimise those risks.

BobbiFleckmann Tue 05-Feb-13 10:48:05

taking clients after 6 months is one thing, taking confidential information belonging to your employer is another altogether - regardless of contract, there is a common law right / obligation for you to maintain confidentiality after your employment has expired and actively helping yourself to client contact details would fall under that heading.

atacareercrossroads Tue 05-Feb-13 10:46:11

And no, taking clients with you is not normal business practice at all. It's highly unprofessional.

atacareercrossroads Tue 05-Feb-13 10:40:36

If you were self employed you should have arranged your own NI contributions surely? And am pretty sure that most areas of employment law dont apply to self employed (apart from discrimination laws).

I do think you should seek legal advice OP before you do anything else. As I say I saw am ex colleague get sued for £16k for this very thing, she had to sell her house sad

WilsonFrickett Tue 05-Feb-13 09:56:10

It sounds to me that you freelanced for her. Which is not exploitation. If you're talking to her clients about her like you're talking about her on here I would expect she'll take some action.

WhatKindofFool Tue 05-Feb-13 09:38:09

Thanks for all your comments. I thought that "taking clients with you" was normal practice in business.

My attitude is that she exploited me to suit herself (no contract, no NI contributions, no employment law etc) - which I agreed to of course, but if you work under those circumstances, then don't expect any loyalty when you stop giving work.

gordyslovesheep Tue 05-Feb-13 08:49:56

Using their contacts is dodgy and unethical careful how you come across as its not very professional behaviour

firesidechat Tue 05-Feb-13 08:44:44

There was I thinking that everybody knew this was a great, big, professional no no.


MrsKeithRichards Tue 05-Feb-13 08:33:22

Is it not similar to when hairdressers move on and take out an ad in the local paper to let people know where they are now?

nefertarii Tue 05-Feb-13 08:03:17

Oh and the whole 'it should be morally ok because I am a single parent' isn't the attitude of successful business person.

nefertarii Tue 05-Feb-13 08:01:51

Hmmm a contract clause is not the only worry.

The fact that you helped yourself to their details could be potentially cause issues.

personally I think its bad business practice. If the clients really wanted you they would have found out where you were.

AKissIsNotAContract Tue 05-Feb-13 07:52:49

I only know how this works in my area of business but when a colleague retires we purchase the goodwill from them.

StickEmUp Tue 05-Feb-13 07:50:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

kalidanger Tue 05-Feb-13 07:48:05

Kee? Owe

kalidanger Tue 05-Feb-13 07:47:29

My bosses entire business hinged on clients following him from his old work to his new business. He emailed, explained he was moving on and invited them. And he's brilliant so they all came.

Many places have signed agreements against this when one leaves. Many don't. I understand youre bitter (not unreasonably) but keep this as businesslike as you can. Don't respond to this woman who you once did business with. You kee her nothing...unless there's an agreement.

atacareercrossroads Tue 05-Feb-13 07:35:50

Also it doesn't matter if the info is on your own pc. It comes under 'intellectual property' owned by the business

MrsKwazii Tue 05-Feb-13 07:29:27

I would just be careful of your professional reputation OP. Clients may not know your set-up with your former employer/contractor and think as many posters here do that what you're doing is unethical. Might be better to bide your time if she's retiring in a few years as you could get more clients then perhaps from her?

AmandaCooper Tue 05-Feb-13 07:29:25

I don't think you'll get sued. She should have taken steps to protect her interests. She didn't. Even if she had, her protections would likely be running out after six months. As long as you didn't steal physical client lists, I don't see the problem. Obviously not everyone is going to like it but its just business at the end of the day.

atacareercrossroads Tue 05-Feb-13 07:29:18

I'd speak to a solicitor before you do anymore op. My prev employer successfully sued someone for £16k who took some old clients with her, that's without any specific no poaching clause in our contracts.

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