Is my side business "competing" with my employer?
I'm about to start a full-time job at a large company. But I also like to tinker on the side. One of my current projects is kinda related to the product my employer makes but does not compete with them. Imagine working at a company that manufactures only firearms and you designed a scope or an accessory that may or may not enhance the performance of the firearm. Your employer does not make accessories and you do not make guns, but the products can be used together. Your accessory can be used with any gun.
I wonder if I might violate some kind of non-compete clause that I will sign (probably a generic template). I'm also torn if I should tell them beforehand.
It appears that you know the correct answer and are hoping someone will tell you otherwise.
Pick between "moral" and "utilitarian."
Measure the risk-reward vs. the opportunity that this job offered, and the stress that you will have thinking about how to avoid full disclosure.
Hey Irena, before we move into dissecting your position, I'd recommend that you go thru your employment agreement in detail. Most agreements have a safety provision for such a 'risk' which most employers are likely to foresee. You may want to interpret some of the related clauses yourself or check with a lawyer. Any future steps would be vastly dependent on this.
Hope this helps.
The first question is what is your employment status? Are you an employee (ie no strategic responsibility), a manager or an officer?
If you are a manager and/or officer, then there is a high probability that you will be breaching the rights of your employer and I would strongly recommend that you obtain legal advice.
If you are an employee and have no access to company confidential information and/or do not have any input into the strategic direction of the company then you will most likely be okay. But once again I would suggest that you seek legal advice prior.
As the other's said, you want to be fully transparent with your company. I will add that they have hired you expecting loyalty, trust, and commitment to the company. That does not prevent you from earning money on the side, but unless you know they don't have any plans for producing the type of product you have, in the future as an extension to their current product, you could violate the non-compete. As well, they could view that they are disclosing their own intellectual knowledge to you, should anything they are doing benefits your product(s). If they are not aware of that potential conflict, that could become a legal issue for you.
Discussing it with them will give you all of the answers you need, demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to them, as well as, potentially provide an opportunity for you to be a future vendor/partner with them.
You are not in violation of anything, however, I advise you to be forthcoming in letting them know about your product. From my experience they may want to have first rights to exclusivity (meaning you designing your product with their brand signage on them for a profit share) or worse case scenario, you will have a non-compete agreement ready to sign with them so they don't feel like your competing, but giving them completion. Makes sense? Let me know if you need a non compete agreement and I'll send one to you.
Carefully check your employment contract - a growing number state that you should not start or continue any other money-generating activities once you accept their employment offer. If it does, you need to ask them if you can be excluded from this clause. You should firmly resist any attempt by your new employer to prevent you earning money on the side, but you should not attempt to conceal it from them.