When our businesses are doing well as young people, it is easy to subconsciously share information about our business with friends, family or even competitors. No matter how small your business is, you need to protect your trade secret. A trade secret is basically any information that’s unique and valuable to your business but isn’t known to people outside of your business.
A trade secret must be any type of information used in your business that’s not generally known to the public and would not be ordinarily available to your competitors except by the use of improper or illegal means. So watch very carefully what type of information your business voluntarily provides to any outsider or third party.
2. Use A Warning Label.
In many cases, you must use a written label or sticker to classify and protect your designated trade secrets. You can simply use a confidential rubber stamp on each page of any trade secret information or put the word “Confidential” in the header or footer of each page of any documents you consider to be trade secrets.
3. Restrict All Access To Your Trade Secret Information.
It’s very important that you also limit access to trade secret materials on a need-to-know basis. A locked filing cabinet with limited key access is sufficient. You could create secure passwords for computer-stored trade secret information. In addition, you should consider shredding any documents containing trade secret materials.
4. Require Everyone To Sign Confidentiality Agreements.
Should you voluntarily give any trade secret information to someone outside your company, you must have the recipient sign an appropriate confidentiality agreement. In addition, you should get in the habit of having all employees, consultants, independent contractors and potential business partners routinely sign confidentially agreements if they may receive or have access to any of your company’s trade secrets.
5. Get Your Employees On Board.
Start with a company policy, outlined in an employee handbook. It ought to articulate why keeping information confidential is important to the company and how it can be hurt when secrecy is breached.
6. Protect Yourself In A Deal.
Many business alliances, such as licensing arrangements, require a company to lay bare its secrets. Protect yourself here again with a nondisclosure agreement.
7. Trademark Style.
When you publicize a business, you are claiming a trademark, whether or not you realize it. A registered trademark allows you to force another company using the same or a confusingly close name to change it, but only if the other company adopted the name after yours was registered.
8. Have Meetings With Existing Employees.
Hold thorough exit interviews and require personnel who have terminated their relationship with the company to return all confidential information that had been in their possession, including any information that is on their office or home computer.
9. Employ Wisely.
When establishing a new employment relationship, the company should inquire whether that person’s previous employer required him or her to sign a confidentiality agreement. A company should follow this policy, because it promotes awareness by the new employee that his future employer respects the confidential and proprietary information of that person’s former employer.
10.Be Economical With Information.
Limit access to confidential information to only those persons who absolutely must see it. A company can place the information in a separate locked file cabinet or require selected employees to use a password to gain access to it.