Originally Posted by txgrassguy
There are two potential legal issues.
1. Did you sign a non-compete clause as part of your relationship with the previous employer?
2. When attempting to negotiate new contracts as a self business, to what degree are you going to "pirate" the estimating process from the previous employer?
Both of these are serious issues that only you can address/answer.
Regarding the moral/ethical aspect, this all depends on the type of contract each client has with the previous employer. Yearly, per service, quarterly, what?
As far as "stealing" clients from a previous employer, as a successful business owner myself I view it this way: Provided I am capably caring for the client I am not worried a previous employee will "steal" from my client base.
On numerous instances clients have directly contacted me after being approached yet did not change due to my providing a level of service the client appreciated/and paid for.
I will say, and karma has nothing to do with this at all, provided you are able to woo clients away be prepared for their now being "trained" that it is okay to price shop = you may very well be the victim of what you are trying to initiate.
Business is business, simply persevere in providing good service and if you have the guts to hang in through the growing pains then you might be alright.
Several things to consider here:
1) non competes are not enforceable in most states and as such are a waste of paper. Most States have a right to work clause, and as such, if you can prove landscping is your chosen profession, you have a legal right to work in that profession, a non compete violates that right and as such is null and void in "most" states constitutions.
2) a previous employer "estimating process" can only be considered "intellectual copyrighted material/process" if it is actually copyrighted. So, copying someone else's way of estimating, 1) isnt illegal and 2) how the heck would you prove that?
In most cases, should the previous employer decide to sue, he's likely got a lot more money than you because he has a running business and he will bully you with lawyer fees which will run you into the ground because you (probably can't afford them).
In reality, it accomplishes nothing for either side. Both waste money on lawyers. Soliciting clients directly? "hello mr jones? I used to work for lawn express and wanted to know if you would like me to do work for you instead?" That's biting it off a bit much..... but it doesnt mean you can't hang fliers in mr jones's neighborhood.... thats just competition.
IF you ex employers customers are unhappy with him, they will leave on their own, how do you poise yourself to catch the leaves falling off their tree, before they just use the yellow pages to find someone else?
think of all the things you 'beleive' are wrong with your former employers business practices, then decide how you will do things different, then market this new fresh way of doing business to the neighborhoods and demographics that you used to work in. IF your funky fresh business model is what these people are looking for, you will get alot of familiar faces as customers, otherwise, maybe it wasnt such a great idea to begin with?