Non-Compete Lessons

Just over a year ago now I was offered a job as a fitness trainer for a small town gym. It was a great opportunity for me to get back into training after two months of being jobless and undesirable jobs.

My first meeting or interview with the owner went well, he seemed to be a decent guy who was looking to truly help people. A few days later I was offered the job. As I was filling out the paper work one of the forms I had to fill out was a “non-compete” agreement. At this point in my career I had only heard about these agreements, what I had heard about them wasn’t enough information to truly have an opinion.

Being the type of person that I am, happy and not looking to cause confrontation, I agreed to sign the non-compete agreement because I had no intention to compete.

I started the job in October; everything was going well. The classes were growing, my personal training clientele was low but I was new in town so I wasn’t worried. After about two months things took a different direction.

My boss (the owner) stopped letting me contribute to the weekly workouts and our communication was diminishing. By December he decided to not have me coach the morning classes, even though the classes were still growing. At this point I knew something was up but I wasn’t sure exactly what.

January came and my boss had practically stopped communicating with me. Side note: communication is important in any business but when someone is running your program, which the workouts come from the owner, who doesn’t give you the workouts, we got some issues!

By mid-January I had had enough, I set up a meeting with the owner to inform him I was quitting. The meeting had a twist, which I should have expected at this point. I was informed I would be fired as soon as our meeting started. I was told the reason was because I was doing too much for the participants and “watering down the program.”

What?!?! Is that even a thing?

Later I attribute the cause of the firing to “short man syndrome.” A syndrome I had not heard about until some friends explained it to me. For those of you who don’t know what “short man syndrome” is it is condition of huge ego and small character.

Here are some of the valuable lessoned I learned from that experience.

  1. Non-compete agreements: If you are asked to sign a non-compete agreement consider who and why?

Who is the company you are going to work for, are they established with a good reputation? When figuring out a company’s reputation it is best to ask people both in and out of the organization. Most people in the organization will say good things. See what people who don’t work directly with that company have to say.

Why are they having you sign a non-compete agreement? Most businesses that use non-compete agreements have certain “secrets” or “formulas” within their trade, which have helped them become successful. But in some cases business use non-compete agreements to try limit future competition from people who can do what they do, better. If the business doesn’t have any special formula to hide then there is probably no need for the non-compete agreement. If this is the case, be weary of the company and how they treat their employees.

  1. Importance of Competition: Competition is necessary for growth. If companies are trying to limit or eliminate their competition, two thoughts come to my mind. 1. They aren’t confident in their product. 2. Their growth and improvement will be limited or stall because there will not be any reason to improve. However, this plan backfires in our society because of want/need for something better.
  2. Hiring: I encourage hiring people who can improve your product. This allows for personal, professional and product growth. Creating an environment where employees can respectively challenge each other will create an exciting work atmosphere, inspire employees and inspire customers.

My experience with non-compete agreements has been an interesting and eye-opening experience. I hope you can learn from my experience to better yourself by creating a healthy competitive atmosphere in your personal and professional life.

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Stephen Mattson

Inspiration. Faith. Christian Culture. Writing.

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