More random ruminations

Contract Rock bands don’t use non-compete contracts. Anyone can quit and join another band. Why should it be different in mainstream business, especially hi-tech?

Orly Lobel—the author of Talent Wants to Be Free—thinks non-compete agreements are dopey. After all, Silicon Valley doesn’t use them and it seems to be doing ok. (California makes most non-compete clauses unenforceable.) You still can safeguard your intellectual property through specific trade secret protection, she argues. In an Inc. Magazine interview, Lobel makes three interesting points.

    "Freedom creates more incentive for employees to connect, be visible, network, and develop themselves both within and outside the company—all of which benefits their employer."
    "Say you can actually get a non-compete enforced; do you really want to develop the reputation as a company that sues ex-employees?"
    "Don't create lack of mobility—see mobility as a way to seed your company in other places. Even competitors can quickly become collaborators…See it as developing your alumni."

Speaking of freedom, that’s what always attracted me to the rock & roll life. As a full-time musician in the late 60s and 70s, I loved not reporting to anyone. Today I still avoid having a boss—and most nine-to-five obligations, unless I'm consulting to a client. One solution: I’ve learned to use the Mayan 20-day calendar to make appointments with folks who won’t take no for an answer. The Mayan calendar doesn’t correspond to any other system of scheduling in North America, which affords many advantages. (“Our meeting was on Monday? I had you down for Muluk.”)

Skilled foreign workers—Mayan or otherwise—are still needed in today’s business to fill a critical shortage of American STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) jobs, according to many business owners who are screaming to Congress to approve more H-1B visas for these workers. (I talked about the issue here, pointing out that many of the great rock bands had highly-skilled immigrants as members.) Yet numerous studies report that the US is producing enough qualified STEM workers and that the US is employing less than half of its newly graduated STEM applicants. But if that’s true why are so many critical engineering positions going unfilled? Also, according to an “Immigration and American Jobs” report by The American Enterprise Institute, “Adding 100 H-1B workers results in an additional 183 jobs among US natives.” Happy to hear readers’ opinions on this one.


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8 Comments

  1. noncompetes would kill off the modern rock scene -- everybody has 'side projects' nowadays. fun.'s jack antonoff couldn't have started bleachers if he'd signed a noncompete.

    1. Excellent point. And, going back a few years, there would have been no CS&N if the Hollies had signed Graham Nash to a non-compete.

  2. It's about trust, or the lack thereof.

    If you hire people you don't trust, you have to fence them in with threats.

    Also, if you hire people you don't trust, you're a ninny. A big fat ninny, and that's the worst kind.

    Non-competes would kill music, so consider what business, which is actually muddling along to some extent, could do without these shackles.

    Covey's "Speed of Trust" is one of the most important books I've read on how to do business. Brilliant case for extending smart trust as the default setting in business, and why that's the commercially smart thing to do.

    If you and I trust each other, the only reason we write a contract is so we don't forget who's supposed to do what. It's NOT so we have a legal tool for lawyers to hit us with later when things don't work out the way we hoped.

    1. "The only reason we write a contract is so we don’t forget who’s supposed to do what."
      That's a quote I'm gonna use — with attribution of course.

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