I had the strangest package arrive in the post recently: a client list of one of our competitors, replete with contact details. There was no note, just the printouts in an envelope.
So what’s the first action I took? I contacted the victim company to let them know. They really appreciated me telling them, and that I was keen to hand the information back.
Now, the absolute kicker of the story comes next. See, I wrote about it on my personal blog, and before I knew it, no less than seven other companies in my city let me know they also received the same package!
Luckily, our close-knit industry means that most of the copies distributed were returned or shredded; however, we must wonder about the motivation of the person who undertook such an act.
From what it looks like, a recently fired employee distributed the former employer’s client list to its competitors. It guarantees the ex-employee will never work in the industry again—if the name ever gets out. If a person is willing to do that to one company, what’s to stop them from doing it to you?
Because I believe in conducting my business ethically, we returned the list; but what if we hadn’t? Sure, we’d now have details on our competitor’s clients, but is this really useful for sales? I remain unconvinced.
If that’s all it takes to poach your clients, the question needs to be asked: are you treating your clients right? I’d doubt it, if it’s that easy for them to jump ship. In any case, there are three lessons we can take away from this incident:
- If you’re that unhappy in your employment, find another job.
- Never use such a situation to gain an advantage over a competitor. Imagine if the roles were reversed, and how you’d like to be treated.
- Be aware that this behavior occurs. If you have employees, take measures to ensure that your corporate property is protected from such underhand actions.
I hope this never happens to your business, but should the worst occur, I hope that everyone remains ethical and helpful.
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