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katie16
Jul. 1, 2009, 10:13 AM
Has anyone (as an employee or employer) used a non-compete agreement with their instructors/trainers?

Thinking of implementing one, but before I do so, I would be interested to hear your experiences, comments, etc.

paint hunter
Jul. 1, 2009, 10:18 AM
No opinion on use but check validity in your state. Not enforceable in CA (i.e., not legal).

katie16
Jul. 1, 2009, 10:28 AM
No opinion on use but check validity in your state. Not enforceable in CA (i.e., not legal).


Thanks for the "heads up". I have checked, and they are legal in my state.

I am not looking to prevent someone who should leave my employment from pursuing the same work elsewhere. Just trying to help minimize the possibility of them walking out the door and setting up shop just down the road and taking a bunch of clients they were training at my place with them. If they want to leave, and then set up shop down the road in a year or so, so be it.

kimball1
Jul. 1, 2009, 10:36 AM
I have not used one in the horse business, but use one at my "real job" all the time. They are a good general agreement to have when someone leaves to remind them of their obligations, however, should they choose to ignore the agreement, and you have to take them to court to have it upheld it's a long and expensive process. It is also a very gray area in some cases, and whether it's upheld or not may depend on the judge you get and how strictly they interpret the agreement. I have seen it go both ways-some I thought were sure would be upheld were thrown out, and some I thought the company had no chance of winning were upheld. Usually the standard of proof lies on the plaintiff to show how the person is clearly violating the agreement, and how its a threat to your business. An overly broad agreement that seems to just prevent someone from making a living is not likely to be upheld. So for example, if you said "You can't train or teach in a hunter/jumper barn within a 20 mile radius of exisiting barn for one year" that would probably be OK but "You may not train in a hunter/jumper barn for one year" and the person moved to another state and you wanted to pursue them, good luck.

Prima Donna
Jul. 1, 2009, 11:00 AM
The key to enforceability of a non-compete agreement is reasonableness. If your state allows them, as you said it did, then your provisions must be reasonable. Like Kimball1 said, you can't be overly broad. Each state has applicable case law setting out what the courts have found to be reasonable. No competing business within 10 miles for 1 year, probably reasonable. No competing business within 100 miles for 6 months, could be questionable. The balance is protecting your livelihood but not cutting someone else off from pursuing their own. If you have an attorney, preferably in employment law, you might want to have them draft it or draft one of your own and run it by them. Good luck!

katie16
Jul. 1, 2009, 11:05 AM
if you said "You can't train or teach in a hunter/jumper barn within a 20 mile radius of exisiting barn for one year" that would probably be OK but "You may not train in a hunter/jumper barn for one year" and the person moved to another state and you wanted to pursue them, good luck.


I have no problem with that. If they want to leave and do the same thing elsewhere, that's fine with me. I just don't want them doing it in my back yard!

Giddy-up
Jul. 1, 2009, 11:28 AM
Way back fresh out of my jr years I had a trainer want me to come teach a couple up/down lessons weekly (like a Saturday). I lived about 25 miles (a solid 30-40 minute drive then) away. I opted not to do it cause I liked my ammy status, but a big reason I said no was she wanted me to sign a 50 mile no compete agreement. I thought that distance was just too big for a w/t 1x/week instructor especially cause at the time there weren't really any other barns in that area that offered what she did. A 10 or maybe even 20 mile would have been more reasonable IMO. Just my experience. :)

I guess it depends on what type of position this person will have with you as well & what the "horsey" area is like where you are located. Obviously the more advanced teaching/riding they are & more involved a person is with your clients/program the bigger the risk is to you that if they leave your clients might too.

Go Fish
Jul. 1, 2009, 01:16 PM
They can be difficult and expensive to enforce. An example would be if you improperly fired an employee, the employee felt the need to quit because of some violation of employment law or improper working conditions, or you laid the employee off.

A non-compete is also difficult to enforce if the person is an independent contractor.

Non-competes are generally used to protect trade secrets. I'm not sure that's applicable here.

IslandGirl
Jul. 1, 2009, 02:26 PM
I have something very similar but it's not a "Non-Compete Agreement." Mine is a "Non-Solicitation and Non-Disclosure Agreement." You basically can't dictate to someone who lives in your area where they may or may not do business. The horse world is small, and people move around. If trade secrets aren't involved, it's going to be pretty tough to uphold saying "you can't work within XX miles of me."

My document essentially allows someone who conducts any riding/training/sales/whatever-horse-related business on my farm to do so as long as they desire and as long as I WANT them here. Once their association or affiliation with my farm is ended (by them or by me), they are prohibited, for a period of two years, from soliciting specific horse-related business (exactly what is spelled out in the document) from any customers that: were here when they came here; that arrived after they began their affiliation/association with me; or that may be a potential customer who has contacted my farm about services offered here during their affiliation/association with my farm. It also prohibits them from disclosing any information about the operation of my business that they may become privy to during their time here.

Basically, it prevents another professional or an employee from actively trying to steal clients, but it doesn't prohibit any clients that WANT to go with them from doing so.

Equibrit
Jul. 1, 2009, 02:30 PM
I would imagine that in some states and situations you would be violating labor/right to work laws.

cbiscuit
Jul. 1, 2009, 02:48 PM
Client $.02:

If I found out a barn I was boarding/riding at made its instructors sign a non-compete clause, I would think they were nutbars and run away. I also feel this way about hair salons and anywhere that specific product innovations aren't involved. If being in your employ has made someone more valuable, you have to pay them enough to stay or suck it up when they go down the road. If my favorite trainer Joey couldn't train me at his new farm because of some ridiculous, client-specific non-compete clause, I would be extra pissed.

Go Fish
Jul. 1, 2009, 02:59 PM
I should also add that you can have anyone sign a non-compete agreement. That doesn't mean you can enforce it. Just ask Microsoft!

Strictly Classical
Jul. 1, 2009, 03:00 PM
If a business is ethically and legitimately run, then why would it bother you if another instructor set up shop close by? The horse community is small. If you treat clients fairly, are honest, forthright, and competent then you should have no worries. Frankly, if I were in your shoes, and someone in my employ wished to leave I would simply bid them farewell on as positive a term(s) as I could manage. Then I would continue to run my business as usual. Clients come and go for all sorts of reason. I wouldn't worry about clients leaving. If I were in their shoes, and I wanted to follow the trainer to another barn, 20 miles wouldn't stop me. The overall end result would be the same.

Don't sweat it - life is too short. When clients aren't happy and wish to leave, bid them farewell. Makes life simpler for you actually. I would only want happy, positive relations to do business with.

I think non-compete agreements casts the originating party in a suspect, if not down-right negative light. It makes the originator look fearful and lacking in self-confidence. Sorry - not trying to be harsh - its simply my POV.

desert_rat
Jul. 1, 2009, 03:05 PM
[QUOTE=Prima Donna;4201560]The key to enforceability of a non-compete agreement is reasonableness. If your state allows them, as you said it did, then your provisions must be reasonable. Like Kimball1 said, you can't be overly broad. Each state has applicable case law setting out what the courts have found to be reasonable. No competing business within 10 miles for 1 year, probably reasonable. No competing business within 100 miles for 6 months, could be questionable. The balance is protecting your livelihood but not cutting someone else off from pursuing their own.QUOTE]

I have to agree. I was asked by my trainer if I wanted to go pro and teach the beg/int lessons. All sounded good until she whipped out the non-compete that said I couldn't teach, train or board horses w/i a 50 mile radius for 3 years. I ran away! At that point in time, i didn't realize that the contract was unreasonable and that I could contest it....however, as a friend pointed out later - if she felt that "threatened" then I probably didn't need to be there to begin with! I didn't even have a problem with the radius....more the time frame!

onelanerode
Jul. 1, 2009, 03:13 PM
If a business is ethically and legitimately run, then why would it bother you if another instructor set up shop close by? The horse community is small. If you treat clients fairly, are honest, forthright, and competent then you should have no worries. Frankly, if I were in your shoes, and someone in my employ wished to leave I would simply bid them farewell on as positive a term(s) as I could manage. Then I would continue to run my business as usual. Clients come and go for all sorts of reason. I wouldn't worry about clients leaving. If I were in their shoes, and I wanted to follow the trainer to another barn, 20 miles wouldn't stop me. The overall end result would be the same.

Don't sweat it - life is too short. When clients aren't happy and wish to leave, bid them farewell. Makes life simpler for you actually. I would only want happy, positive relations to do business with.

I think non-compete agreements casts the originating party in a suspect, if not down-right negative light. It makes the originator look fearful and lacking in self-confidence. Sorry - not trying to be harsh - its simply my POV.

I completely agree! :yes:

Not being a trainer, I'm baffled at this "stealing my clients" attitude. Isn't it the client's decision to stay at current barn or follow trainer around? Sure, trainer can make that decision tough by refusing to teach client should client not move w/ trainer, but trainer cannot force client to follow him/her around. But maybe I'm missing something here ...?

Whiplash Wanda
Jul. 1, 2009, 04:04 PM
Has anyone (as an employee or employer) used a non-compete agreement with their instructors/trainers?

Thinking of implementing one, but before I do so, I would be interested to hear your experiences, comments, etc.


I think it's ridiculous and any trainer that signs one, is out of their mind.

Pirateer
Jul. 1, 2009, 04:05 PM
My former trainer had one with a woman who trained out of his barn briefly. Either he was an idiot and didn't press charges, didn't want the clients anyway, or didn't have it in writing, but the woman took about 5 clients with her, with 1-2 horses.

dags
Jul. 1, 2009, 04:29 PM
As a professional that worked their way up through a myriad of barns that had young trainers coming and going, I can somewhat see the reasonings. Too many people just seem to stir up trouble among clients, maybe too inclined to gossip with them, and next thing you know a group of customers that was previously quite happy is suddenly not so.

Another example would be when hiring a full time assistant from out of state. I can absolutely see the logic in that - no need to get them all set up here, help them establish a reputation, then watch them walk away with your clients.

Within reason there is nothing wrong with protecting your business.

cbiscuit
Jul. 1, 2009, 04:32 PM
Didn't press charges? Seriously?

Maybe he realized that the whole concept is ridiculous! She didn't steal the clients, they left. As long as they met any requirements for notice, etc., wave goodbye with a smile!
Can you imagine how you would look if someone tried to use a non-compete clause to prevent a former employee from serving his/her former clients? What do you think they would do, come back??

fordtraktor
Jul. 1, 2009, 04:38 PM
My former trainer had one with a woman who trained out of his barn briefly. Either he was an idiot and didn't press charges, didn't want the clients anyway, or didn't have it in writing, but the woman took about 5 clients with her, with 1-2 horses.

Noncompetes are purely civil -- you can't "press charges" for violating them because it is not a crime. Pursuing a suit is extremely expensive. Your former trainer may have done a cost-benefit analysis and decided she wasn't worth the expense.

Pirateer
Jul. 1, 2009, 04:48 PM
Noncompetes are purely civil -- you can't "press charges" for violating them because it is not a crime. Pursuing a suit is extremely expensive. Your former trainer may have done a cost-benefit analysis and decided she wasn't worth the expense.

Hey thanks for the legal lesson I don't give a crap about...!

cbiscuit
Jul. 1, 2009, 04:52 PM
I'm pretty sure that FordTraktor just provided a quick, thoughtful clarification, and I'm the one who thinks your vision of reclaiming clients via legal action is...misguided. So maybe you meant to cyber-snark at me. :yes:

cloudyandcallie
Jul. 1, 2009, 05:00 PM
Non-compete clauses have to state a specific geographic area (or market if it is a TV station or the like) and a specific time period in my state in order for someone to recover any damages or prevent someone from working for "the competition." My father and his business partner had a non-compete clause for their management. And all the reporters in Atlanta at the TV stations had them of course, they could quit, but then they had to wait a year to get on the air on a competitor's station.

So if you have a corp. or partnership or employee status, the clause should state the the person agrees to not compete with you for a one year period within, say, a hundred mile radius of your stable. If you make the clause for say 10 yrs or specify any where in the USA, the courts aren't going to enforce it. The remedy is usually that the person is not allowed to compete, but sometimes damages can be recovered.

People who work for your and then leave and take clients to another location outside of the agreed upon area are not violating the agreement.

ClemsonGraduateRider
Jul. 1, 2009, 05:32 PM
I would suggest you include a non-disparagement clause. Although as many have mentioned, these are generally not enforced by everyday employers who do not have trade secrets to protect, it can't hurt to throw one in there. They generally prohibit the parties from speaking badly about each other in public venues. In reality, also probably not enforceable in the sense that it's expensive and hard to prove, but if you are going to try to get employees to sign a non-compete, I would put a non-disparagement clause in as well.

Paragon
Jul. 1, 2009, 05:42 PM
Hey thanks for the legal lesson I don't give a crap about...!

Well, bless your heart.... :lol:

fair judy
Jul. 1, 2009, 05:48 PM
i would never marry a man who wanted a pre-nup nor would i work under a non-compete. :)

GreystoneKC
Jul. 1, 2009, 06:04 PM
Hey thanks for the legal lesson I don't give a crap about...!

Wow. B*&^h much?

Maybe you should just say thank you for giving you information that you obviously didn't know.

Pirateer
Jul. 1, 2009, 06:06 PM
Wow. B*&^h much?

Maybe you should just say thank you for giving you information that you obviously didn't know.

A terminology lesson for something that isn't even applicable to me? Since I was merely passing along a tidbit?

Methinks I'm not the one with my panties in a wad.

And since you guys are making a point of telling me I'm wrong...

To Press Charges:

bring a charge against someone or something
to file a complaint against someone or a group; to begin a legal process against someone or a group. (A charge can also be charges even if only one charge is involved.) We brought a charge against the town council. Sam brought charges against Jeff.

kates93
Jul. 1, 2009, 06:12 PM
Each state has applicable case law setting out what the courts have found to be reasonable.

There's the key. Hard to give specific advice without knowing the state. Although, agree with whoever said that they are expensive to enforce -- that might be the one thing that doesn't change from state to state! :D

mvp
Jul. 1, 2009, 06:33 PM
I am neither your golden goose nor your sitting duck. I'll choose my own trainer, thanks, and I won't think much one who tries to limit my choices simply by making it difficult to check out the competition. If you want my business, earn that by being the best at what you do, not by excluding competitors.

Really, we clients are unruly anyway. An agreement that tries to set up some sort of monopoly that dictates two pros' behavior but also that of many consumers may not be worth the paper it's printed on.... unless you spend lots and lots to enforce it. And I, the holder of the purse you were chasing, might not comply in the end anyway!

Strictly Classical
Jul. 1, 2009, 06:38 PM
I am neither your golden goose nor your sitting duck. I'll choose my own trainer, thanks, and I won't think much one who tries to limit my choices simply by making it difficult to check out the competition. If you want my business, earn that by being the best at what you do, not by excluding competitors.

Really, we clients are unruly anyway. An agreement that tries to set up some sort of monopoly that dictates two pros' behavior but also that of many consumers may not be worth the paper it's printed on.... unless you spend lots and lots to enforce it. And I, the holder of the purse you were chasing, might not comply in the end anyway!

Well AMEN to that! You hit the nail on the head when you used the word "professional". NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, sounds very PROFESSIONAL about non-compete agreements to me.

I too, as a client, am no idiot and do not need for some "trainer" with a Super Ego to try to dictate, whether overtly or directly who I will or will not do business with. They can go bugger off.:mad:

Used To
Jul. 1, 2009, 06:40 PM
Well AMEN to that! You hit the nail on the head when you used the word "professional". NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, sounds very PROFESSIONAL about non-compete agreements to me.

I too, as a client, am no idiot and do not need for some "trainer" with a Super Ego to try to dictate, whether overtly or directly who I will or will not do business with. They can go bugger off.:mad:

That is largely why these things aren't worth the paper they are printed on. Determining if client made the decision to leave on their own vs being hustled out by the ex-assistant trainer? Fine line.

JOBEAN
Jul. 1, 2009, 06:44 PM
If a business is ethically and legitimately run, then why would it bother you if another instructor set up shop close by? The horse community is small. If you treat clients fairly, are honest, forthright, and competent then you should have no worries. Frankly, if I were in your shoes, and someone in my employ wished to leave I would simply bid them farewell on as positive a term(s) as I could manage. Then I would continue to run my business as usual. Clients come and go for all sorts of reason. I wouldn't worry about clients leaving. If I were in their shoes, and I wanted to follow the trainer to another barn, 20 miles wouldn't stop me. The overall end result would be the same.

Don't sweat it - life is too short. When clients aren't happy and wish to leave, bid them farewell. Makes life simpler for you actually. I would only want happy, positive relations to do business with.

I think non-compete agreements casts the originating party in a suspect, if not down-right negative light. It makes the originator look fearful and lacking in self-confidence. Sorry - not trying to be harsh - its simply my POV.

Well put. My POV too!!

katie16
Jul. 2, 2009, 09:33 AM
Whew! Lots of opinions here, some very strong too! But that's good - I asked for comments, thoughts, etc.!

Thank you everyone for your responses - you have given "food for thought".

However, I did just want to make one quick comment to those clients who posted. Generalizing here, but my take on many of your posts was that you felt that the employer who has a non-compete agreement would somehow be holding you captive or not respecting your right to have the trainer you wish. For me, that would not be the intent of such an agreement.

Lets say a trainer/owner takes in another trainer on staff. That second trainer, lets say a "jr. trainer" for the arguement, learns the ropes of the business from the trainer/owner who is well established. Clients were at the facility when jr. trainer came aboard. Clients were happy prior to jr. trainers arrival. Clients are happy with jr. trainer at the farm. After a couple years, jr. trainer decides to go off on his/her own. That, in and of itself, I understand and don't have a problem with. Jr. trainer has been working with clients at trainer/owners farm. Jr. trainer needs clients to start his/her own business. Unfortunately, truth and honesty too often become skewed when jr. trainer sees the opportunity to have these clients move to his/her new business. While I totally agree that the client leaves by his own choice, nobody actually "takes" a client anywhere. However, I have known clients over the years who have left (for a variety of reasons), only to come back three to five years later saying how wrong they were because they later found out what they believed was not actually true.

Clients come and go. They do that for a variety of reasons. That is the nature of business, but especially the horse business! I know that. I inquired about the non-compete argreement just trying to see if there was a way to help protect myself from my own employees doing damage.

Strictly Classical
Jul. 2, 2009, 09:44 AM
Clients come and go. They do that for a variety of reasons. That is the nature of business, but especially the horse business! I know that. I inquired about the non-compete argreement just trying to see if there was a way to help protect myself from my own employees doing damage.[/QUOTE]

I see the point you are trying to make. I really do. However, I would say this to you: be a good honest business person and a true horsewoman. Openly continue to develop your own education and skills. When it is apparent to others that you have the very BEST INTERESTS of your horses and clients at hear, that you are honest and fair in all your dealings - YOU WILL HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT! :) Truly, you will have the best basis any business could for growth and development.

That is a piece of advice that was given to me by an Olympian. Honestly, that is the truth. I will refrain from saying who it was, because that really doesn't matter. I was attending a clinic with this rider last fall, During the lunch break we were talking about how to make it in a very competitive horse business. He said to me basically the same thing I have just shared with you. He even said that no matter what level you are at - be it local trainer or international competitor - the philosophy is the same. When people see that you are honest, trustworthy, competent, respectful, and kind - your business will grow by leaps and bounds - largely due to the best marketing tool around: word of mouth from others in the horse world. When you think about, there is so much TRUTH in this man's wise, wise words.

fordtraktor
Jul. 2, 2009, 09:45 AM
I understand your concerns. IMO, the best thing you can do to prevent what you worry about is to let them go graciously and tell them they will be welcome back in the future if they wish, be friendly and maintain good relations when you see them out and about, and then welcome them back with open arms when they realize they made a mistake.

Sometimes hard to do, but we have had great success with returns using this plan. Probably half the horses on our farm left for greener or cheaper pastures at some point, but are now back with us and glad to be here.

Rye
Jul. 2, 2009, 09:48 AM
IMO, it's a waste of your time and effort. Even if your state allows them, they are typically only limited to 1 year.

StrictlyClassical and FordTraktor and others have given you very solid sound advice, heed it.

BridalBridle
Jul. 2, 2009, 09:56 AM
Legal....yes....enforceable.....maybe and pricey. There are judges who think that taking the right to compete away violates the basics for a capitalistic system. Good Luck with trying to "win" and if you "win" what do you get??? Youre sure are not going to get their customers. Keep your own with good service and just let the system work.
Good service, good skills, hard work will give both businesses enough business for everyone.

cbiscuit
Jul. 2, 2009, 10:21 AM
Whew! Lots of opinions here, some very strong too! But that's good - I asked for comments, thoughts, etc.!

Thank you everyone for your responses - you have given "food for thought".

However, I did just want to make one quick comment to those clients who posted. Generalizing here, but my take on many of your posts was that you felt that the employer who has a non-compete agreement would somehow be holding you captive or not respecting your right to have the trainer you wish. For me, that would not be the intent of such an agreement.


It's not so much that I would feel "captive" as that I would question your judgement for trying to include a noncompete clause to solve this problem. Partly because you'd be setting yourself up to be even worse off than you were before. In the above scenario, if you take legal action against the jr. trainer, what's the good outcome there? You get damages? Jr. trainer is forced out of business? That would make you look...terrible. And I suspect the clients aren't coming back, nor are they telling their friends.

What I'm saying is that if this is the problem:

However, I have known clients over the years who have left (for a variety of reasons), only to come back three to five years later saying how wrong they were because they later found out what they believed was not actually true.
and you think you can solve it with a noncompete clause, I don't want to be in that barn. If your former employee is badmouthing you and your clients believe it without checking with you, trying to contractually restrict jr. trainer's speech is not the answer.

S A McKee
Jul. 2, 2009, 10:30 AM
Ok, so you tell your current trainer he/she needs to sign a non compete agreement. They can easily say " I don't think so ", leave and actively recruit your clients.
Maybe trying to do it with an existing trainer at your farm isn't such a good idea but would work the next time you take on a new trainer.

mvp
Jul. 2, 2009, 11:29 AM
I think the Jr. Trainer leaving to hang out his/her own shingle is a timeless and natural thing. You can't prevent it and shouldn't try. After all, you displaced someone else while you were coming up too, right?

Also, it's so hard to build a business in the shadows of an established program that I think a non-compete agreement would be redundant. As the newbie, chances are you don't have the capital to build/lease a faboo facility, clients with fancy horses and $$ to get to the show ring that you would need to eclipse the established guy.

But there are things the Old Dog can learn from the young'un. Many of us might go to the little guy because he's cheaper and we're financially wrung out... he stays home and actually teaches and trains...they have a quieter farm with better T/O.... or is amazingly talented and has people skills that run circles around yours. If so, watch and learn.

TrotTrotPumpkn
Jul. 2, 2009, 11:44 AM
OP, I see where you are going with this. I, personally, have been subject to a rather ridiculously broad (2 years, entire state) non-compete and maybe just knowing it was in place was enough, subconsciously, to keep me from competing against my former employer? Who knows. If she'd sued me I'd have sued her right back for telling me (a couple times) I shouldn't have kids if I want to succeed. :-)

That said, as pointed out court battles suck and you are going to spend a lot of money and time and increase your stress level if you try to enforce it. If the person leaving is popular with your clients (and he/she should be if you hired a good worker) then you are going to look like the big bad business owner and many clients will probably leave you regardless; and your reputation in your horse community could be quite tarnished by all these disgruntled individuals and all the other BO's spreading the vicious rumor about your downfall/desparation evidenced by you actually feeling threatened enough to sue a former worker. Personally, I don't think it is worth it. Creates bad will.

findeight
Jul. 2, 2009, 12:59 PM
Non-competes are generally used to protect trade secrets. I'm not sure that's applicable here.

Actually, in the horse show world it is to prevent them from taking clients with them when they go. It's not at all uncommon...and not aware of any need to enforce it-most newer trainers do not want to damage any relationships built with their former employer and their network of contacts.

Over the years have seen what happens with the less then ethical assistant works 3 or 4 years for a trainer and then secretly sets up a new place of business and offers the clients all sorts of enticements to move including reduced board and show charges while still working for the head trainer. Then they give notice and leave with a bunch of clients they poached on that trainer's dime.

The fact all the "grass is greener" crap does not pan out, no surprise. But that has nothing to do with the fact the non compete will discourage this type of thing. If the clients want to leave after it's up, that's fine.

Ones I have seen have been 50 miles for a year but other areas maybe larger or smaller depending on the location. That gives the former assistent plenty of room to get started.

One thing though...this needs to be agreed to and signed at the time the assistent is hired on as a condition of employment. Not sprung on them when it's time to say goodbye.

poltroon
Jul. 2, 2009, 03:35 PM
I understand your concerns. IMO, the best thing you can do to prevent what you worry about is to let them go graciously and tell them they will be welcome back in the future if they wish, be friendly and maintain good relations when you see them out and about, and then welcome them back with open arms when they realize they made a mistake.

Sometimes hard to do, but we have had great success with returns using this plan. Probably half the horses on our farm left for greener or cheaper pastures at some point, but are now back with us and glad to be here.

Exactly.

I've seen these kind of disputes come up before, and the angry barn owner trying to keep clients who want to leave will never come out a winner. It can create literally a decade of bad PR.

TSWJB
Jul. 2, 2009, 03:37 PM
Then they give notice and leave with a bunch of clients they poached on that trainer's dime.

The fact all the "grass is greener" crap does not pan out, no surprise. But that has nothing to do with the fact the non compete will discourage this type of thing. If the clients want to leave after it's up, that's fine.


not buying it findeight. if the client wants to leave, then they have every right to leave. this is america and i think non compete agreements go against what our country is all about. freedom to do what you want. and if the customer leaves, then obviously something is lacking that makes them want to leave. no one should be allowed to say sorry you cant go with that trainer because i have a piece of paper in my hand that says non compete!
hey its up to the customer and its up to the assistant trainer and its really basically a choice of whether the assistant wants to burn bridges or not. i think most assistants would rather not burn bridges with a well established barn. but that still cannot prevent a customer from leaving if they decide that the only reason they were at the barn was because of the assistant whom they have just worked with.

findeight
Jul. 2, 2009, 03:56 PM
Sure we all have the right to leave.

But when an assistant actively recruits out of the head trainer's pool of clients on that trainers time? And badmouths them (and they all do if they go this route), creates a hostile environment that makes them want to move...one that did not exsist before?

That sucks. Some years ago I was in a situation where an assistant was doing just that. There were all sorts of sideways glances, whispers, conversations that abruptly stopped when anybody not in that group walked within earshot. No surprise that she up and quit and took 6 clients with her. Admit to feeling a little left out-was not "in" on it. 4 of the 6 returned in a few months.

Same thing happened a few years ago, not on the same scale, but there was a definate division among clients in the barn, almost like a clique.

This type agreement may not be enforceable or worth persuing if it is in your state, but it sure heads off alot of problems like this between clients. I can tell you, I was aware I was "left out" of the chosen group both times and it made the barn much less pleasant.

jeta
Jul. 2, 2009, 04:24 PM
I don't see how a client can be held to comply with an agreement that is between the jr. trainer and the BO/head trainer...Or is client made to sign a similar agreement?

justathought
Jul. 2, 2009, 04:40 PM
As a client I really don't care whether a BO and/or Head Trainer has someone sign a non-compete or not. It has no impact on me or my choices in the present or in the future. As an attorney I am at a loss to understand why a client would care.

OTOH as a business attorney I do understand a BO/Head Trainer wanting a non-compete. I have seen too many less than ethical moves my subordinates to steal clients by negotiating with the client before they have given notice of their plans to leave (both inside and outside the horse business). Non-competes are tough - they have to be limited in place and in time and they are difficult to enforce. However, they do make a point. They make an employee aware of the appropriate way to exit. They make an employee aware that the employer is aware of the possibility of inappropriate behavior. Most importantly, they make both people talk about the issues and agree on a way to handle them

As an employee, don't sign an unreasonable non-compete - or don't sign one at all if you do not want to. Its all about bargaining power. My guess is that an established trainer with their own clients is not going to be asked to sign one (they are already bringing business to the table) a brand new trainer might.

Either way, clients will do what they want BUT a departing trainer should not be solicit clients for their new business under the table....

Prima Donna
Jul. 2, 2009, 04:41 PM
I don't see how a client can be held to comply with an agreement that is between the jr. trainer and the BO/head trainer...Or is client made to sign a similar agreement?

A couple of things that seem like they need to be clarified:

In states where they are enforceable, non-compete agreements are standard at most large companies and becoming more common in smaller companies. They are often incorporated as clauses in the initial employment contract.

Reasonableness is the key. The purpose is to protect the employer who is spending resources training this employee and from whom the employee is learning. The agreements do not prohibit an assistant trainer from leaving and setting up another business. They prevent the assistant trainer from leaving and setting up shop so as to directly compete with the trainer immediately, in the same area (hence the usual 1 year, 10 mile radius requirements). Most of the non-competes that are found reasonable are restricted to a rather small area. If a clients wants the assistant trainer, they will likely not have to travel much further.

The client is not subject to the agreement. It is between the trainer and assistant trainer (employer and employee)

Incorporating a non-disclosure clause in the contract is also typical as someone suggested earlier.

In my experience, non-compete agreements/clauses honestly aren't a big deal, especially when introduced as a clause in an employment contract. I can't think of anywhere I worked that didn't have them.

As a side note, the lawyers who wrote the laws don't allow lawyers to be bound by non-compete agreements :)

fordtraktor
Jul. 2, 2009, 04:54 PM
Just to add to the two very thoughtful posts above on the legal side --
If the noncompete is enforced and the departing employee loses, it likely means the former employee would have to pay the original trainer damages for the lost business from the clients who went with him. No one would force the clients to go back, etc.

findeight
Jul. 2, 2009, 07:05 PM
Clients don't have to do, or sign, anything. They may go as they please if the assistant leaves.

But that clause sure helps keep the client from being put in the awkward situation that occurs when all this subterfuge goes on as assistant tries to set up the new business before leaving...or letting the head trainer know.

Sort of sets the guidlines, an exit strategy if you will.

poltroon
Jul. 2, 2009, 08:20 PM
Perhaps rather than a noncompete, a better way to do it is to start from the beginning with setting up an exit strategy.

Right up front, talk about how the relationship might look in 5 years, how you'd want it to look, how it might dissolve.

Obviously one scenario is that JR comes in, sucks, and leaves fairly quickly. Probably without any clients.

Another is that JR comes in, works with the up and coming kids, and is ready to be on her own in a few years. Obviously, if she has a great relationship with a kid that she taught and you never did, the client is going to want to go with her.

So instead of setting up arbitrary time and space, talk about how that growth will occur, and what you'd like to see. Think for yourself how you want to keep a relationship with your clients so they have a reason to stay with you.

A noncompete will hurt only the ethical and honorable jr trainer. Someone unethical and deceitful will simply ignore it.

We had a situation with gymnastics here. The gym had an owner who had never been a gymnast - she was more into aikido, but she had young gym classes. She taught some herself, and some was taught by young adults she had taught over the years. Some were good and some were scary - I remember one girl in particular that we parents freaked out about, putting the kids in unsafe situations.

Then she hired a young woman who was awesome - a former elite gymnast and a very skilled young coach.

It was apparent fairly quickly that the new coach was far better than the owner and that she didn't fit in as just a junior employee. To top it off, the gym was really too small for any serious gymnastics.

She started her own gym, and yes, without her doing any active recruiting, she had every kid she had ever taught within a month. Personally, I would have stopped taking my daughter to gymnastics rather than stayed at the old gym.

I'm sure the original owner is bitter, but she kept it to herself... and who knows, maybe we'll go back some day for aikido, because she didn't burn the bridge.

AGRHJRider
Jul. 2, 2009, 10:06 PM
So fresh out of school i got a job here in Maryville, TN teaching at a small hunter jumper barn. I had 3-4 existing clients and boarders when i moved here. Slowly building my business.
About 6 months after I was established my former boss called me into her office and told me that if I wanted to continue living on the farm and carry on my business that I would have to sign a non-compete agreement that stated that I would not train anywhere within a 100 mile radius for two years. At that point I was terrified of losing my job, home and livelihood and reluctantly signed.
I should have seen this as a major red flag, but i truly was happy where I was at. As business grew (35 students after 2 years) the employee/employer relationship quickly went down the drain. Barn owner was excessively drinking every night, embarassing herself in front of clientele and also harassing me.
I felt a very strong sense of responsibility to my students and also all of the horses in my care and stuck it out as long as I could.
But after 2.5 years I decided that i couldn't work in that capacity any longer.
I agreed to stay until the end of show season and also agreed out of my own grace to help her find an employee to manage the barn.
I found a trainer, moved her in... gave her my apartment and trained her in the routine. Once she was moved in I was out.
Unfortunately the harassment continued as later I also found out that former Barn owner was spreading lies to my former clientele about me.
I didnt teach or ride for 6 months and im just now returning to my former state and sense of well being. It was a very stressful time.
My advice is to never sign a non-compete agreement. It could mean your livelihood and also put you in a very bad financial spot.
Also many states and most judges will find non-compete agreements hard to hold up becuase they can cause "financial hardship" on the employee.
I also later found out after speaking to a lawyer that i was forced to sign under duress... ie.- sign this or leave immediately
Anyway if your employer is willing to hire you they should at that point be confident in your sense of ethics, anything else is asking too much.

findeight
Jul. 3, 2009, 09:59 AM
And again, nobody should be blindsided by this kind of thing after putting in several years of satifactory work...that, indeed, indicates fear on the part of the head trainer that you are doing a better job. Especially that overexcessive 100 miles for 2 years.

If it's not presented up front as a condition of employment, I wouldn't sign it. Also if it's unreasonable, like the 100 miles for 2 years, either negotiate it to something more reasonable or don't sign it.

A non compete should not require you to have to move at least 100 miles away just to get another job or start up your own, that's bogus.