Without taking the proper precautions, your boss could end up owning the startup you worked so hard to build.
I arrived in Las Vegas at 7 AM for a 9 AM meeting at a client’s office. This client was not a client of mine–it was a client of my employer’s. And at the time I was building my own consulting and public relations firm on the side, which meant I had my own clients.
This particular morning, I had a web conference at 8 AM for one of my clients, before the scheduled meeting with my employer’s client at 9 AM. I rushed through the Las Vegas airport to the rental car shuttle, got my car, and coasted into the closest Starbucks 2 minutes before my conference started.
I finished that web conference, then rushed to my next meeting. I arrived sweaty, disheveled, and had the look of a man keeping a secret.
The secret of the side hustle.
Many a business is born out of the side hustle. Henry Ford tinkered on his automobiles while working for the Edison Electric Company. Of course, some bosses are more encouraging of side hustles than others. When they met, Edison encouraged Ford to continue working on his automobiles, and the two men later became friends and admirers of one another.
Of course, that’s not often the case. Many bosses are not overly thrilled at the idea of their employees working on a side hustle, and many employment agreements include a wide variety of clauses and conditions that theoretically prevent employees from starting a business on the side.
I was treading on dangerous ground, in more than just the obvious ways. Though I hadn’t stolen any clients, I knew I was flirting with violating the non-compete clause in my employment agreement.
What I didn’t know is that under certain circumstances, your boss can end up owning your side hustle.
Yes, it’s true.
The very same tyrannical boss who may be your primary motivation for starting a side hustle can actually end up owning the result of your hard work.
How does that happen? According to Startup Legal TV, a legally focused content platform for start-ups founded by a team of attorneys, your boss may end up owning the rights to your side hustle if you fail to understand the specific conditions of your employment agreement, use company property or time to work on your start-up, or use company intellectual property as a basis for your start-up’s product or services.
Of course, every situation is a little different, but if you are working on a side hustle, don’t use company property or time, and (obviously) don’t steal intellectual property. If you do any of those things you risk:
A. Being sued.
B. Burning a bridge with a prior employer (and good relationships with prior employers can be incredibly important to your startup).
C. Losing the rights to your startup.
Personally, I have three kids, a mortgage, two car payments, and roughly 31,000 cell phone plans in my house. And growing children require an incredible number of nutrients, making Ramen profitability a non-option. I had to start my business as a side hustle.
A lot of entrepreneurs are in the same boat.
The side hustle boat.
Just make sure you do the right things–or more accurately, make sure you don’t do the wrong things–or your boat might sink.
Or end up belonging to someone else.