A young lady called me last week and asked whether it is morally right for her to start a business while still working for her employer.
I responded by swiftly asking her whether it is legal for her to start a business while on contractual employment.
She hesitated to answer. I reframed the question and asked her what did her contract say about it. She promised to check it from the archives and read it. She is yet to get back to me with the answer.
Starting a business while working is common among most employed people. In fact, most people in business today, including myself started a business while working.
Starting a side business or second job while formally employed has both legal and moral aspects.
On the legal part of it there is nothing wrong with it if your contract with the employer allows or does not prohibit it.
In most cases your contract will have clauses that bar you from engaging in certain businesses or activities that are deemed to bring conflict of interest or affect your performance at the disadvantage of the employer.
Unfortunately, most people just sign the contract without reading it and later file and forget it. Basically, when you are signing the contract you should consider your ambitions, career growth and where possible declare your various interests to avoid future conflict or restrictions. This however requires balancing because such disclosures may jeopardise your job or affect your relationship with the employer. However, from a moral perspective it is the right thing to do.
Basically, the employer’s worry is how your other activities would affect their interests. If they are assured that you will discharge your duties without being impeded by your other business they would not have a problem. But this is hardly the case.
On the moral side, when you start a business there are certain minimum requirements which you must meet. They include but not limited to:
First you should not use employers’ resources such as stationery, internet, online tools or software solutions, computer, and anything else that directly benefits your business while on duty. Secondly you must refrain from working on your business while on duty. You should only work during your free time or while off duty or on leave and such should not be induced for the interest of your business.
Thirdly in case your employer and business need you at the same time, your employer takes priority.
Finally, you should not use your influence by virtue of your position to solicit business for your firm from your employers’ clients and contacts even if businesses are not related. This is an integrity test which many people fail.
Before you start a business while working it’s important to consider whether you will meet legal and moral requirements. Also ensure you have enough time to give your start-up the energy and concentration it requires.
Launching a business requires time and lots of energy, failure to which it may not take off. If you don’t have time you may consider resigning so that you can focus on it and give it what it takes to succeed.
Mr Kiunga is a business trainer and the author of The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market. [email protected]