One thing that I love about being in the event planning industry is that I get to meet some very wonderful people. There is nothing like sharing ideas with others, learning from each other, helping each other, and seeing the wow factor on the faces of those we plan for. We have met many wonderful brides and event planners alike. However, every now and then we just meet people who in my opinion don’t have enough integrity to be a part of this wonderful industry. You know, the kind of people who seem not to have any moral boundaries whatsoever. Here are 5 lines that I believe should not be crossed.
1. If you work for someone and decide go out on your own, don’t target their customers!
This is just wrong, but from what I hear it is becoming commonplace in this industry. This is stealing in my book. You can call it competing, but it is theft. It is taking advantage of a resource that you would not have had except that someone misplaced their trust in you. If you have done this, then you are a thief. Many times you will find that your former employer will mentor you and even help you to go out on your own if you do it in the right way.
Instead, spread out from your former employer. Go to the next town or city. Again, if you have a good relationship with your former employer, they will bend over backwards to help you succeed. Else, you just make an enemy in the industry out of the people who could have helped you the most.
2. Do not take anything from your former employer, misuse company information or resources, or delete company files.
This is a big one! It is illegal (a felony in some cases)! Don’t do it! Don’t take a customer list. Do not contact any of their current customers. Be careful not to take any of their designs, projects, or ideas even if you collaborated on them. Remember, they were paying you for those ideas at the time. Therefore, they belong to that company. Make sure that you don’t delete anything like files, emails, or browsing history from their computers. If you do, you could end up getting sued or even worse, prosecuted for it. Keep in mind that deleting files does not really get rid of them. A computer forensics expert can recover those deleted files in no time flat. If you have used company time and resources or have taken anything from them, they will still be able to prove it in court. At first your former employer may not find you worth the cost of taking legal action. However, if you start making enough progress to make them feel threatened they will take some form of legal action. In many cases they will find it more cost effective to prosecute you rather than suing you! And if you were ever engaged in illegal activities on their computer, you never know when they may recover it. Imagine thinking that you got away with something only to have the police show up at your door with wither a court summons or even an arrest warrant a year or two later. It is easier to just do things the right way than it is to go to jail for taking something that isn’t yours or for activities intended to defraud your former employer. These can show up in recovered emails, browser history, recorded keystrokes, computer codes showing downloaded information, or just about anywhere. You may be surprised at what violates criminal law.
3. Don’t make your company look like someone else’s.
What does it say about your moral fiber if you are trying to fool prospective customers into thinking you are someone else? This happens a lot with Internet-based companies in the wedding industry. A lot of parasites like to create hyphenated versions of the domain names of real companies. Again, this is stealing from someone else. Plus, people will see through it in the long run. More than that, you could get sued for copyright and trademark infringement. Be yourself. Be original. Don’t be a leech. This industry takes knowhow and creativity. If you can’t even come up with your own identity, chances are you will never make it in this business anyway.
4. Do not lie about your experience in the industry.
I know of someone who started an event planning business about a year ago. Since then she has posted online that she has “over 20 years of experience in the event planning industry”. I know this to be false. She did work as a customer service rep for an event planning company for three years. But, according to her former employer, she had no experience whatsoever when they hired her a few years ago. Before working for them, she ran a small dog breeding company and worked a short time as a school cafeteria worker. I would say that claiming 20 years of experience in the industry is stretching things a little. If you make false claims, whether they be about your products or your experience in the industry you are asking for legal trouble. All it takes is a report to the Federal Trade Commission and you are looking a possible fine and a large one at that. It isn’t worth the risk.
5. Don’t steal ideas from other event planning companies!
One thing I see all the time in social media is stolen content and stolen photographs. Pinterest and Facebook are places where people love to post photos and content like it was their own when the truth is that they ripped it from someone else’s website. We often have pictures of our product photos stolen from our websites and posted on our competitors’ websites! It happens all the time! What does it say about the quality of your product when you have to steal product photos from other companies? This is really unnecessary. The truth is that most companies love for their content to be shared by others. They just get upset when you don’t give them credit for their work. Wedding photographers in particular are cracking down on this. If you don’t want to risk a lawsuit (or at least an angry letter) don’t do it. Many people do this by pure accident by copying and pasting from Pinterest.
Have you ever had your ideas stolen by others in the industry? Share your experiences by commenting below, but don’t name names! 🙂