Black Hats and White Hats: Create a Culture of Confidentiality

(Part Nine in a Series)

Do you expect others to secure your secrets, protect your patents, and guard your goodwill?  Then respect the intangible assets of others.

Even if you have implemented sound policies and procedures to protect your intangible assets, your policies will fail if you do not have buy-in from your employees.  You can talk a good game about protecting intangible assets, but your employees will take their cue from your actions, not your words.

You must walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.

If you blather on about the importance of your trade secrets and confidential information then try to hack into your competitor’s computer network to gain a competitive advantage, your employees will recognize you as a charlatan and a fraud.  Your intangible assets will receive no more respect than what you are willing to give to the assets of others.

Wear a White Hat.  Create a Culture of Confidentiality that reverberates through the length and breadth of your company.  Conduct yourself in a principled and honorable manner at all times.  Compete fairly.  Speak truthfully, even when it is a disadvantage to do so.  Don’t poach.  Be respectful and courteous.  Make all of your corners square.  Do the right thing, all the time.

When you behave ethically, you have the moral authority to insist that your employees do likewise.

Not only is it the right thing to do, you’ll be glad that you did if you have to file suit to protect your intangible assets.  Imagine how difficult it would be to convince a judge to enforce your non-compete agreement against a former employee who testifies that you regularly sought to circumvent your competitors’ restrictive covenants.  The judge would, with good reason, proclaim you to be a Black Hat who is unworthy of judicial protection.

Create a Culture of Confidentiality that respects the rights of others, and your business will boom.

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