• http://virtualimpax.com Kathy | Virtual Impax

    As always – this is GREAT advice. It’s obvious you’ve “been there – done that and bought AND sold the T-shirt factory”.

    One of the “gems” here that many people starting their own business overlook – the whole “Don’t use company property or Internet to conduct your side business”.

    There once was an email program called Eudora – it’s ancient I know- but it was a BIG hit in the 1990’s… and the developer didn’t see a dime because he lovingly wrote the code on his employer’s computer.

    If he had followed your advice…. “Assume everything you do on the Internet is recorded, cataloged, tagged, and monitored continuously by a methamphetamine-powered slave-army”… he’d be sitting pretty now. Instead he’s a poster child.

    It’s the whole “an ounce of prevention” mindset…. but YOU already know that. Thankfully you’re sharing that bit of hard won wisdom with others just starting the voyage! Thanks Jason!
    .-= Kathy | Virtual Impax’s latest blog post: Creating Authority with Your Business Blog =-.

  • http://whyspam.me Richard Schneeman

    Great article, what about reading HN, and commenting on blogs? Do you think that’s kosher?

    I live in Austin and will certainly be going to SXSW.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      That’s kosher from an IP point of view because if the company “owns” your comments on some blog, who cares.

      But it may or may not be kosher from a company policy point of view. Some companies forbid social networking at work, some don’t. Of course that will all depend. But here you’re not risking ownership of something, just whether you’re adhering to some HR policy. I doubt “violation” (the first time) would be more than a warning.

      Of course reading this blog is vital for your ability to contribute at your peak performance, and therefore ought to be required everywhere. :-P

      • http://blog.whyspam.me Richard Schneeman

        this blog is vital for your ability to contribute, well played…I’ll let management know about that one!
        .-= Richard Schneeman’s latest blog post: WhySpam.Me Featured on KillerStartups.com =-.

  • http://socialgrow.com Marsh Sutherland

    Great post! I did actually start a startup while at an employer and when I left the company they sent me a letter laying claim to my “Project GuestList” since I used their computing resources to send and receive emails about it. “Project GuestList” was actually a startup like Yelp.com and I mothballed it when I learned about Yelp.

    Now I’m self-employed to and have no conflicts with myself. (Hmm…that’s an interesting sentence.) I primarly work on SocialGrow in the morning and evenings proactively and then am reactive during normal business hours throughout the day while I am being proactive on my money earning business.

    It works out very well, but my other business that I use to earn money is also a startup too technically, although I am fairly established in the Boston area as a great technical recruiter.

    So another suggestion would be if people want to make money and still have a startup on the side, can you perform the role you do at work as an independent contractor for your current employer or for other companies?

    Marsh Sutherland
    SocialGrow, Inc.
    @marshsutherland | @socialgrow

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Thanks for sharing the story, and great point about being independent rather than an employee.

      When you’re a 1099 contractor rather than a W2 employee, suddenly you can do whatever you want. The rules about using company (now: client’s) property and Internet still apply, but all the rest does not apply because you’re not operating under their employment agreement and corporate HR policies.

      Indeed, it’s illegal for them to attempt to impose such policies on you, because then the IRS would call you an employee and they would owe employment taxes!

  • http://gilesbowkett.blogspot.com Giles Bowkett

    but that the wrong approach should be but that’s the wrong approach
    .-= Giles Bowkett’s latest blog post: Google PageRank In Five Lines Of Ruby =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Fixed; thanks!

  • http://www.skmurphy.com/ Sean Murphy

    Jason, good roundup of key issues when you are preparing to leave but haven’t left (a process that may last a few weeks to the better part of a year for some entrepreneurs).

    Here are some things I have seen folks do in California (where the law allows you to own whatever is developed on your own time with your own materials).

    Two cell phones, or you don’t ask the company to reimburse you for (or don’t get reimbursed for your cell phone).

    Own your own laptop and only use it for your work. This may mean you keep your laptop in your car and use your company laptop at work and at home when working on company business.

    Take a lunch break or a coffee break and connect on a public network then. Return calls on your own cell phone then. Be careful about lunch plus coffee breaks exceeding 30 minutes a day.

    Don’t have company pay for your home internet connection (e.g. don’t get reimbursed for DSL/Cable connection).

    Your company is likely to get much less excited about your startup if you are pursuing an opportunity that’s unrelated to their lines of business.

    One you left off is to avoid soliciting your company’s customers for business. It’s unethical and will agitate your employer immediately.
    .-= Sean Murphy’s latest blog post: Use Wikis for Team Projects =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Great list, and so true about treating the company’s customer list as sacred.

      We’re used to thinking of things like source code and marketing documents as “trade secrets” or “intellectual property,” but customer lists are absolutely also included in those categories and are almost always explicitly named in the employment agreement.

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  • http://www.lifestylebusinesspodcast.com Ian

    Nice approach. When we started our venture we were moonlighting at our day jobs. There are a few things we did that made the appearance to our customers seem like we were ‘working’ during business hours.

    1. Set up a virtual phone system. Grasshopper is great. Have all your calls go to voicemail and ask them to leave a message with their company information, email address, phone number etc. This makes it easy to respond by phone or email depending on what’s easier during lunch or at 11pm when you are grinding at home.

    2. Hire a professional assistant in the Philippines. For a very, very low rate you can have someone answering your customer’s requests 24 hours a day. If your startup is worth hundreds of sweat equity hours it should also be worth $400 of your cash money. This hire will be pivotal in so many ways..

  • Bron

    Did you mean to link to failblog.net instead of failblog.com? The .com version looks like a squatter site.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Crap you’re right! Fixed now, thanks.

  • captain

    I think you give alot of good advice here.
    Im in the midst of building a startup and working part time. I work part time because I was nearly made redundant last year, luckily i got to keep half a job. My employer is pretty cool about my project and my boss actively helps me with business plans and things which is pretty cool. I think im in an unusual position though.
    Im not sure how im going to handle support and things when I actually launch though.. ill cross that bridge when i get there i think.

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  • http://www.worthclark.com Bryan

    I’m in this boat… and probably do way too much of my business while on my employer’s computers.

    I own and operate a real estate brokerage, providing property management. What other slow growth businesses are worth starting while employed?

  • http://dotthishashthat.wordpress.com Jen

    Thank you, Jason, for posting this – the comments too, are especially helpful. I’m one of those people with a lot of ideas and little execution and five years later, someone else is sitting fat and happy because they too had the idea but unlike me, they executed. What keeps me from executing? The excuses I keep coming back to seem to be a shortage of free time due to my full-time+ job, busy family life, and fear of failure. Fortunately for me, the legal aspects have been clearly defined by my current employer with a clear path for answering any legal-related questions. I honestly believe thanks to so many of the incredible bloggers that I follow, that I am over that.

    I found your time management links especially helpful – thank you! For me, when I’m passionate about something, it’s hard not to focus / think / work on that in some capacity throughout the day. That’s not a decent excuse not to try.

    One question I’ve been asking myself lately that you did not address in this post, is “Do I want to do this alone?” Before, I’ve thought that due to my constraints with a current employer and the consequences to my schedule (9-12 am) that this would simply be impossibly. I’m beginning to see that this is just another excuse and is simply another question that will require my creativity and resourcefulness to find the proper solution.
    .-= Jen’s latest blog post: Yes, I said Seth was wrong…here’s why… =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Great question about going alone. In retrospect I probably could have written another entire section about how you probably should NOT go alone, simply because more people means more hours whether or not either of you have a job.

      Yes partners mean compromise and sometimes even heartbreak and the end of the company. But it seems like a trade worth taking when you’re attempting to do something (a startup) which by definition needs as much time as possible.

      • http://softwareprototyping.net John Clark

        That’s interesting, Jason. The flip-side of this argument is that it’s not always possible to find the right people with which to partner, and in those cases surely it is better to go it alone than end up carrying people whose contributions don’t justify whatever share they negotiated up front?

        I’m giving this very thing a lot of thought right now, as I have a number of ideas but I’m not sure I necessarily have the time nor ability to service each properly. And that’s before getting into the benefits of having someone to motivate/nag/inspire. However, holding back for the ‘right team’ is a blocker to actually getting out there and doing something, so I’m conflicted!
        .-= John Clark’s latest blog post: Wireframe or Interactive Prototype? =-.

        • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

          Of course partnering with the wrong folks is worse than going it alone — possibly worse than not doing it at all!

          Going alone is fine, but it’s useful to decide whether you’re going to make yourself open and available to finding those partners. For example, deciding what skill-set in a partner would be most valuable (thus worth the risk of partnership) and deciding that you’re going to go to certain meet-ups or groups to keep yourself open to meeting people.

  • http://www.OhCheri.com Cheri

    Po Bronson called it “parasitical entrepreneur” and I did it for over a year before I was able to replace my income and leave the day job. It was stressful but worked out perfectly, I couldn’t be happier!

  • http://artists-edge.com/blog/feed Debra Russell

    This is also really applicable to part-time professionals in the Arts & Entertainment Industry who have a day job to pay the bills. A lot of my musician clients deal with this issue and I’ve had a client who got fired because she was booking gigs on company time and internet.

    For me, it’s not only a risk because you could lose your job or be sued. It is also an ethical question. Because you are STEALING from your employer when you use your paid work time or their equipment to work your business.

    So employ the Golden Rule. If you’re creating a start-up where you will have employees – would you want them to treat you in this way?
    .-= Debra Russell’s latest blog post: American Idol – Top 24 =-.

  • http://www.manojkumarshinde.com Manoj Shinde

    I am a part time business owner for at least one more year. I use Internet in my day job to read blogs such as Smart Bear Blog. I do not use it for any other purpose. And I spend time reading only when I finish the job work and get free time.

    Do you think this is legitimate?

    I admit, I am addicted to emails and check it every few minutes but I have now decided to set a limit of every 3 hours.

    Thanks for a great post again :)

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Reading doesn’t create any IP for them to own, so that’s OK. It’s the same as reading about how to cook and then the company claiming they own anything you make in the kitchen at home.

      Good call on the emails. I’ve been on-and-off addicted as well. Here’s a nice way to think about it:

      If you’re actually waiting for a certain email to come in because it affects what you’re doing right now, then you do need to check it a lot. But if not, ask yourself why exactly you need to check it! Usually there’s not a good answer.

      • http://www.manojkumarshinde.com Manoj Shinde

        Thank you Jason for your opinion. About checking emails, It is not what you have said rather just a bad habit developed over the period.
        .-= Manoj Shinde’s latest blog post: Practice Makes a Man Perfect =-.

  • http://codingphobia.com/ Asad Ali Butt

    some of the people are here to light up your path, we will miss Joel, but you are still here. I am grateful. Do appriciate your advice.
    .-= Asad Ali Butt’s latest blog post: Generate Rss and Atom Feeds using Asp.Net MVC – part 2 =-.

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  • http://www.sitegratisgratis.com.br Criar site

    Great post, I agree with you when you say: The best way to avoid a lawsuit is to prove that your employer knows you have a side project.

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