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May 11, 2011
Competition from Within
We’ve all heard the stories about employees leaving in the middle of the night with a stack of client files tucked under their arms. In some cases, these defections have crippled and even shuttered agencies that weren’t able to recover from the loss…and the betrayal.

In the past, a really strong non-compete was the answer. By having employees sign off on a long legalese contract, companies were given some assurance that their clients were safe. Then more and more, it seemed courts were siding with employees and companies were losing.

So, what do you do about it?

It starts with better screening. Know who you are hiring. Really get to know the candidate by approaching the interview process with the same intensity as dating before marriage, and you will have a better chance of getting to know who you are getting into business with.

Allow more people in the company to be involved with interviewing. These interviews need to move beyond the conference room. Production should chat with the applicant over lunch.  Account executives can take them to bond over drinks. Remove the formality and the candidate’s true personality will come shining through.

Trust your gut.

No matter how well qualified they might be, If you find out that they have behaved unethically before, especially if there has been a pattern of cheating in their past, then you might want to be warned that it could happen again. 

A large part of getting to know an applicant is through social media. How they behave online will provide quite a bit of insight into their true personality. You will also need to address an employee’s online behavior once hired. Be sure to have a section dedicated to social media and online behavior in the employee handbook.

Business is hard enough without having your employees cheat on you and steal your clients. Protect yourself. One of the best defenses is a good offense, so be sure that you are hiring someone worthy of your company.

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Jaci Russo is a co-founder and senior partner of The Russo Group, a national branding agency located in Lafayette, LA. She is a brand strategist with experience including strategic planning, consumer insight, brand management, national product launches, and media management for clients in a cross section of industries. She speaks to organizations across the country on the power of branding, changing the conversation, message training, and how to brand through social media.

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