Privacy Key Part of Success in Business
August 21, 2011
Business Tips Article
ASU-SBDC Rural Business Manager
SAN ANGELO, Texas — I signed one, you probably have signed one, and hopefully the next person you hire will sign one. What are we all signing? A confidentiality agreement, the promise that whatever information we learn about you and your business, we will protect it and not share it.
Stop for a minute and think about what your business needs to protect. You might not be able to equate what’s important to you as being the secret to the Coca-Cola recipe, but there are parts of your business that, if not protected, could jeopardize your success.
Examples might include the proprietary recipe for a signature restaurant dish, a list of vendors and customers, transactions of financial dealings, and inquiries about buying or selling a business.
Restaurant-goers in Midland place their order at a local place for a dish of chile rellenos. The unique combination of flavors topped with raisins and pecans is a bold blend of French and Spanish cuisine. I’m sure the recipe is well guarded. If you own a restaurant, have you taken steps to keep the flavor combinations protected?
Consider a confidentiality agreement with the chef and kitchen staff. Or better yet, prepare the blend of spices yourself, keeping the list of ingredients a secret.
Specialty women’s boutiques battle to get the newest styles in a race to be the first in town to sell the most sought-after pieces. A list of vendors enables a boutique owner access to the production lines who deliver on time and on budget. Requiring store staff to sign a confidentiality agreement would help protect vendor lists.
Customer lists are an integral part of many businesses. If your company is a service company or relies on outside sales, the list is the lifeblood of your company. Confidentiality agreements would be a must in protecting this list.
When you seek financial assistance for your business, you can be assured that the bank is committed to keeping your transactions confidential. One bank posted this commitment on their website, “Our customers rely upon XXX to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of all information entrusted to us by them.” The posting concludes with ” ensure our legal, professional & moral obligations to maintain the privacy of all confidential information in our possession.”
When you plan an exit strategy for your business, the last thing you want is that information “leaking” out ahead of schedule. If discussion within your organization takes place, a reminder to the staff of the confidentiality of the information and their confidentiality agreement is a wise step. The same holds true if you’re planning a business acquisition.
As an SBDC counselor, I am bound by a confidentiality agreement. Unless I have specific permission to discuss a client’s interest, I answer the question “Who are you working with today?” with “I’m sorry, I can’t say. It’s confidential.”
The Small Business Development Center at Angelo State University is available to help guide you through the initial process of securing a confidentiality agreement for your business. Give us a call.
Business Tips was written by Peggy Hodges Rosser, Rural Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Advisor IV of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. For more information on the topic of this article or the services of the ASU SBDC, contact her at Peggy.Hodges@angelo.edu.