UK: Beating the secret competition.

UK: Beating the secret competition. - Mister Meanor on dealing with colleagues who plan to defect and take business with them and a supplier with a good idea but a bad record.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Mister Meanor on dealing with colleagues who plan to defect and take business with them and a supplier with a good idea but a bad record.

Dear Mister Meanor

Some six months ago, two of my fellow board directors asked me (in the strictest confidence) if I would be interested in joining them to form a breakaway company. I declined but promised to keep the matter to myself. A couple of weeks ago however, they approached me once more, this time with more advanced plans. Again I turned down their offer - I am extremely happy in my present position and have no wish to leave my company, which is a great success.

But now I realise that if they do get their new business up and running as planned, they will take a substantial chunk of business away from my present employers. I wish them well - but not that well. Should I betray their confidence and tell my boss?

In a Pickle


Dear In a Pickle

Well, you can't just sit around and say nothing, can you? Your departing fellow directors took a calculated risk when they approached you with their offer and now, regrettably, you have very little choice but show them just badly wrong they got you. As the twosome are very much in your midst, you will be unable to call a board meeting to discuss the matter unless, of course, you happen to enjoy public fist fights. Rather, you should go behind their backs and level with your chief executive (in complete confidence, of course). Nobody likes a telltale, but you may be surprised how warmly your words are received when there is money involved in the equation.

Your chief executive can then take the appropriate steps to defend against the double-crossing directors. With careful presentation, they will not suspect your indiscretion, or at the very least you'll be in a position plausibly to deny it. You shouldn't feel bad about breaking a confidence in this situation - your choices here are pretty limited. If you won't join 'em, you're obliged to your company to beat 'em.


Mister Meanor

Dear Mister Meanor

I run a medium-sized manufacturing business in the West Midlands. Recently I was approached by a supplier with a terrific idea for a new product.

The supplier's proposition was as follows: we would assemble and market the finished product, they would provide us with many of the major components and we'd all be richer.

There's only one snag - the originators of the idea have been everything you wouldn't want in a supplier. To wit, their goods are of a lamentable quality and their deliveries are invariably late, incomplete or both.

I love the idea, I very much want to use it, but not in partnership with them.

In a Conundrum


Dear In a Conundrum

On the assumption that the idea is not protected by copyright or patent, the solution here is quite straightforward. Just do what any good American would do. Over there, money is its own just reward and nobody lets the kind of feelings you may be experiencing get in the way of doing business.

So explain to your supplier that you like the idea but don't feel they're the right people for the job. And then pay them for the idea. Obviously the arrangement you come to is up to you, your suppliers and your commercial lawyer, but there is absolutely no reason why this arrangement shouldn't work. Moreover, if your supplier is a bit hurt at first, they will soon realise that they are getting rewarded fairly for the idea, while you will reap the reward of its execution.

Business as usual

Mister Meanor.

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