Posts Tagged ‘business philosophy


Semi-Detached Vacation

People have different expectations from vacations.  The “retreat”  camp want isolation – complete separation and respect for their privacy.  I’d say I fall into the “extended leash” sect.  I’m just looking for some time and a break from the ordinary.  I assume my clients want answers in a reasonable timeframe.  If it means putting a pool-side nap on hold for a two-minute call and then I return to my snooze, so be it.

We can’t predict all emergencies or even uncomfortable situations that our clients just want to feel better about.  Why make them wait a week to settle their nerves?  Besides, I find it comforting to put someone at ease with a quick answer.  Any working relationship involves give-and-take.  Its a luxury to be able to get away from the office for a week or two.  Other luxuries we’ve come to expect are the personal call during the day, “running a little late” in the morning, and other instances of getting a very human benefit-of-the-doubt from the people we work for and with.

So here I sit.  I’m writing a blog post on vacation after having spent an hour or so working remotely and answering emails.  The day is young and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot done.  The peace of mind in having done so is the vacation payback.  I don’t need to brag of a streak of days not working to make myself feel good.  I can be cleansed of pressure in minutes with the right mindset.  Vacation is just being in the right place to let that happen.  Having modern tools and communications to be able to do this is a marvel!


The Sphere of Fear

Non-compete agreements are common in the IT support industry.  Employers fear clients walking off with their talent (and their future revenues) before they’ve gotten their training investment out of them.  They primarily fear that their practices might be used by an exiting employee to steal their future revenues by starting their own business.  To counter the chances of this, they have their new employees sign non-compete agreements.  The problem is not only that they are typically too broad in their future exclusionary requirements, but also that they are presented to the new employee after they have given notice to leave their old job.  Essentially what should be an early interview discussion point becomes economic extortion, especially for younger workers, inexperienced with job negotiations.

Below is a map of my area (made with Free Map Tools) with concentric distances from a local area.

The red indicates area based on a 25-mile radius while the yellow is 50 miles from the same center.  The green circle reflects a green-zone of a 5-mile radius.  The concept behind it was to counter the “standard” 50 mile exclusion radius with a more practical geographical model of exclusion.  Conceptually, beyond 25 miles, these IT services are not very practical for exclusive prompt service and thus the exclusion factor should be less in that zone.  The green-zone, based on the radius of where the employee actually lives and thus must commute from, should be fairly open due to long-term commuting practicality and its small footprint.  The linear radii on contracts don’t convey the unfairness of excluded area like the map does.

In terms of broadness, non-competes are often vague.  Employers want you out of their industry.  That’s hard to do in an increasingly specialized sector of the economy.  How does one do that for two years and still support their family at any modicum of the same standard of living?  Add to that the factor that in most households both spouses work, and you can see where the 50 miles becomes very unreasonable since relocating is pretty-much out of the question.  Staying away from the former employer’s sweet spot is one thing.  Being prohibited from a reasonable distance and from key existing clients is more reasonable.

The final insult is lawyer fee threats.  Most have the “winner take all” mentality of the losing party paying all legal fees of themselves and the winner.  This clause clearly makes sure the lawyer that wrote the contract is the one party that will not lose however things go down.  It also puts the onus of risk (and thus fear) on the employee who is less likely to be able to absorb legal fees than the business is.

The non-compete is a contract between the employing corporation and the employee.  At signing, it seems like a friendly safeguard between two people across a small table looking forward to a prosperous relationship.  Down the road, as the company grows and the employee grows more dependent on the salary, as well as their future expectations within the industry, personnel changes may well turn the safeguards between friendly parties into a sharpened instrument in the hands of new, less-agreeable management.

Corporate-centric non-competes seem harmless up front, especially when the fruits of a new job appear so rewarding.  However, we live in a fast-changing world and work in an even faster changing industry.  Don’t paint yourself into a future corner.  Insist on better flexibility with amendments to the non-compete.  Don’t underestimate the assets that you bring to the table in the prospective relationship with your new employer.  Use the non-compete discussion with them up-front to see where their ego really is.  Those two birds in the bush may not be any better than the bird in hand.


Small-Business Part-time IT Contracting

I’ve contracted with local Pittsburgh businesses essentially since 1997. There are a large number of sole-practitioners, home office users, and even companies with more than 50 employees that need computer help on a regular, but not full time basis. The support they seek usually includes:

  • Sporadic advice on everything from purchase decisions to odd messages to email and internet access problems to website design
  • Tune-ups of existing equipment that may have spyware, virus, or even just mis-configuration issues
  • Help with efficient internet access, protection, and even remote access
  • Back-up and recovery of business-critical data
  • PDA and smart-phone configuration and access to business systems
  • Installation of new computers, servers, software applications, and accessories and migration from the old systems.
  • Strategic help with choosing the right technologies for their business’ future
  • Pricing that won’t make them afraid to call the computer guy for a simple question

While there’s no one-size fits all arrangement, I think accommodations can be made to address most of the above for any small Western PA business. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss.

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