Circumventing a Non-Compete Agreement in Florida and Starting Your Own Business

Starting your own business is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences one can experience. It takes a lot of planning and courage to start an enterprise. Unfortunately, too many would-be entrepreneurs have their dreams dashed before things get going because the aspiring business owner is under a non-compete agreement from his or her former (or current) employer. 

Last month’s blog laid out the general requirements for an enforceable Florida non-compete agreement. These restrictive covenants must be “reasonable” in duration, geographic area, and other important constraints. If you can prove that your non-compete agreement is unenforceable, you might have a clear path to starting your own business. If not, don’t despair. There are some tactics that may be successful. 

Don’t Start a Direct Competitor

Let’s say you programmed software at an online educational company for five years. You signed a non-compete agreement with your former employer that prohibits you from starting another company that provides software development for colleges and universities. If you start a company that provides tech support for small restaurants, you are probably not running afoul of the non-compete agreement. If, however, you started a company that provides software programs for colleges and universities, you will probably run into some legal trouble. 

One of the most important things for aspiring entrepreneurs is to carefully scrutinize the actual activities prohibited by the non-compete agreement. If there is little overlap between your old duties and what your business will do, there is a good chance you are fine. Be sure not to use trade secrets or confidential client information when setting up your new business. Additionally, there’s a good chance your non-compete is not enforceable if you did not have a truly “specialized” position with your former employer. 

You Might Be Able to Settle

If all else fails and the non-compete agreement appears to be perfectly valid, don’t give up yet. It’s worth a shot to simply contact your old employer and see if they would be willing to renegotiate the agreement. While your former employer is under no obligation to do so, and there is probably no incentive, you might be surprised. If the agreement lays out monetary damages for a breach of contract, you could offer to pay a portion of that in exchange for starting the business. The employer might be interested in getting a little cash when they didn’t otherwise expect it. 

Don’t Go It Alone

No matter what you decide to do with your non-compete agreement, be sure to speak with an attorney before you do anything. Blatantly going against the non-compete agreement can be costly for you, but there is also a cost to inaction. If you are truly motivated to start a business but are worried about a non-compete agreement you’re subject to, please reach out to our team today to discuss your options. We’d be happy to speak with you over your Business Strategy Session soon.

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