I recently read an article, 5 Signs an Employee Plans to Start a Business to Compete With You, and agree that all five of the signs were valid points. However, I’d like to take a different perspective on the topic: You should be glad when one of your team leaves to start his or her own business in competition with you. Here’s why:
- There is enough business to go around. First, there’s nothing to worry about. The economy is really good right now. People are starting up businesses. Existing businesses are enjoying success. Even if you live in the middle of nowhere that has absolutely nothing going on, it no longer matters. With the amazing ability to work remotely, you can have clients halfway around the world. You don’t have to mine your own community for new prospects. Share the prosperity. You don’t have to be a monopoly in the bookkeeping game to be successful.
- Your clients won’t leave you on a whim. Why do you have such a great client list? It’s because of you. Your personality. Your integrity. Your responsiveness. Your clients are not going to give you up to switch to someone else unless they have a really good reason. Even if your departing team member has complete responsibility for a particular list of clients, those clients should know you, interact with you, and understand that you are the company.
- You’re a great teacher. How did Ms. Beginner become Ms. New Business Owner? It’s likely because you taught her. You actively gave her instructions on your perfected methods of handling monthly bookkeeping, accounting practices, and advisory services – but it’s more than that. Because she sees you, watches you, and listens to you, she learns organically the way a successful business owner handles clients, employees, time management, cash flow, and all the things that make you who you are. If your team has access to you, they are learning from you. It’s inevitable.
- You were inspirational. You’ve heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s true. Mr. Bookkeeper may have joined your team with no intention of ever leaving someone else’s company to start his own, but by example and whether you meant to, you’ve shown him the possibilities. By encouraging and rewarding him as he’s progressed, you’ve given him the confidence to do it on his own. This is not a slight to you. It’s the greatest reward. Well done. You did a great job!
- You should always want your team to grow. Henry Ford said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” Why in the world would you want to stifle your team? Why wouldn’t you want them to learn, grow, and stretch beyond the boundaries you both thought possible on that first day of employment?
- So … throw a party. Celebrate with your entire team. You’ve helped mentor the next great bookkeeper with no damage to yourself. If one team member starting up a service is a threat to your business, then you have bigger problems to address!