Business can be cutthroat, and, although it would be nice to think that everyone essentially “plays by the rules” in a business context, it’s important to know that there are some who don’t. If you are an entrepreneur and want to develop your own business to its potential, you need to be aware of potential pitfalls on the inside and the outside. You don’t want to get blindsided by shady vendors, employees or anyone else you may deal with. Know that there are some things you can do to protect yourself. Here are my top 3 ways to avoid business exploitation.
Avoid Business Exploitation #1: Always Use Contracts or Legal Agreements
Whenever you deal with other businesses, contractors, freelancers, even some employees, make sure you have a legally binding contract in place. Additionally, make sure this document details the expectations of all parties and the money part of the deal. If you have no idea how to do this, consult a business litigation expert in order to handle contract creation and management.
Even if you are a freelancer, and a client wants to hire you for a quick project, use a contract. I recommend having a standard one that you can fill in details for each project you do. Know that, if a prospective customer, vendor or employer refuses to work with a contract, there is likely a reason. They may not be someone who is completely honest or works with high standards or ethics. Be aware and cautious in these situations.
Avoid Business Exploitation #2: Be Careful about What You Share
Intellectual property is a tricky thing when it comes to business. One thing for sure is that it’s fairly easy to steal. Consider your clients, students, or vendors that know your systems, content, and secrets well. Anyone of them could steal what you’ve worked so hard to write or build. Consider using language in your contracts that forbids them to use any of your programs, content, and secrets for their own business purposes. These are generally called non-compete clauses and are used widely when intellectual property is involved.
This is also important where financial information is vulnerable. Hold your employees, vendors or contractors accountable for financial dealings with you. Protect your private data by using systems that don’t require them to see complete account numbers, details, etc. I also recommend using an identity protection software or service in case anything should happen.
Avoid Business Exploitation #3: Use Your Gut Instincts about People
I recommend using your gut instincts in all business dealings. Of course, you do need to look at the facts and what is being presented, however, don’t discount your good ole intuition. Too many businesswomen don’t go with their gut and end up getting taken advantage of by predators.
Be careful about new hires and always do quality background checks on people who will be in the inner circle of your business. If they handle paperwork or any financial aspects of your business, they have the opportunity to steal or change data. That’s quite a dramatic example but, nonetheless, be cautious and watch every aspect of your business and the people who work in it.