mama miya Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 1:43pm
post #1 of

AI have a business now & opened a shop just last year. I hired & trained a baker. I trained her & gave her all the secrets & recipes for my cakes because i cannot focus on baking anymore as i do the decorating, marketing, paperworks etc for a lot of shop orders so i hired her. Now the problem - one of my trusted assistant in the shop told me that my baker just bought her new oven plus baking stuff. I told her from the start that i am protecting my business & i would like to trust her that she will not do something w/ my recipes etc... Now i am becoming a paranoid as i dont want to ask her straight on her plans of why she bought oven. I know that she's going to have sidelines that she will sell my cakes too :( now what should i do??? :-( Help & guidance pls..

47 replies
MimiFix Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 1:59pm
post #2 of

Anytime we hire help, we must assume they aspire to opening their own shop. That's the way it is in the business world.

 

One suggestion: She's had access to your recipes and might have already copied them. But in case she hasn't, immediately remove the recipes from her access. Make dry mixes for each recipe and rewrite the recipes to say "add 1 bag mix."  Then tell her you're making this change to speed production.

 

Good luck, and remember this is just part of the business world. 

mama miya Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 2:12pm
post #3 of

ATnx mimifix! I was sooooo busy then if ill be doing the dry mixes procedure as i have plenty of cake flavors & types plus different # of recipes per pan size which will just cause confusion on my part. At the time i hired her i was really busy opening the new shop that's why i overlook that idea though i have all doubts about that too.... Its sooooo sad if she's going to betray my trust on her. I talkd to her from the start about that but still she has her personal interest. Ours is just a small town & i am just starting a great business w/ good feedbacks on my cakes & all of a sudden someone u once trust will sell ur cakes secretly. She'll sell it cheaper as she'll be baking it at home so if people will know, my customers might order to her instead buying from my shop :( how sad...

Minh Cakes Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:03pm
post #4 of

I don't have any employees so it's just an idea: I can understand why any employee might want to "break free" at some point and start their own business. Some of them probably are not aware of the work, and risk taking such a step entails. They dream of having "their own place" and how many advantages that would bring.

 

Maybe you could sit her down and try to make her see the advantages of staying with you. Maybe the two of you could work out a plan for her employment, where she would get more "executive freedom" and have less of an employee status. You could both benefit from this, she would be helping you by taking more responsibility on her shoulders, and she wouuld stay in your employment, which would mean more safety than having her own business.

 

just a thought?

 

If that fails, and she really does start operating from her home, it will be no comparison to your licensed bakery, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. Then the two of will find different target groups to cater to. She won't be able to sell it THAT much cheaper if she know anything about the cost of making cake. Even for a home business there are some remarkable overhead costs to consider.

jason_kraft Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 3:17pm
post #5 of

AIf your competitive advantage is on the baking side, I would work to shift your advantage to the decorating side (and/or other facets of the business) ASAP. Mimi's suggestion of abstracting ingredients is a good one, hopefully it's not too late.

Is there a cottage food law where you live? How are you compensating her compared to average wages in your area? Do you have a promotion path in place (potentially leading to partner status), and have you communicated this to her?

Stitches Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 4:27pm
post #6 of

You've gotten some great advise already.......the only thing I can add is; can you get her to sign a non-compete contract?

 

I'd understand your reaction, but try to calm yourself from being mad at her. That will get you no where and you'd be silly to think someone very capable wouldn't have their own aspirations.

 

Maybe there's something she makes well that you could let her sell out your front door (on her own time baking from your licensed kitchen)? It could give her something of her own to focus on and teach her just how hard it is to make a profit. Of course it can't be something you already sell!

liz at sugar Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 4:49pm
post #7 of

I would just fire her.  Now.  And I agree with the others that if your recipes are the star of your business, you need to transition back to that and hire a decorator for finishing work.

 

Sorry to sound hard core, but I think Stitches idea would have been good if you would have started with that (non-compete agreement).

 

Liz

 

P.S. And I wouldn't fire every employee who had any kind of aspirations - just those who already have one foot out the door anyway. :)

jason_kraft Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 5:05pm
post #8 of

AI think firing her is premature and could push her into starting a competing business even if that wasn't her intention...based on what OP has said, all we know is that she bought a new oven and has a personal interest in baking. She can't really do any more damage if she remains an employee, and it will be easy enough to see if she starts a new business.

Stitches Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 5:09pm
post #9 of

Quote:

Originally Posted by jason_kraft 

I think firing her is premature and could push her into starting a competing business even if that wasn't her intention...based on what OP has said, all we know is that she bought a new oven and has a personal interest in baking. She can't really do any more damage if she remains an employee, and it will be easy enough to see if she starts a new business.

Ditto that thought.

liz at sugar Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 5:15pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by jason_kraft 

I think firing her is premature and could push her into starting a competing business even if that wasn't her intention...based on what OP has said, all we know is that she bought a new oven and has a personal interest in baking. She can't really do any more damage if she remains an employee, and it will be easy enough to see if she starts a new business.

 

I think she could do plenty more damage - she could take any recipes she hasn't already taken, could be taking customer information, could be sabotaging the OP's business.   Do I think she is doing that?  No, but if you have trained someone to bake, they have just bought an oven and all the baking supplies, I'm guessing they have intimated to the other employee that their intention is to open a competing business.

 

I am not certain what the "sidelines" comment meant in the OP's original post, but I thought it meant she thought her employee would be selling cakes on the side while working for her (simultaneously).  That is why I would just be done with it, and move on.

 

Liz

jason_kraft Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 5:22pm

A

Original message sent by liz at sugar

I think she could do plenty more damage - she could take any recipes she hasn't already taken, could be taking customer information, could be sabotaging the OP's business. 

This can be addressed going forward by abstracting recipes and protecting customer information (which should be done anyway).

Now if OP has evidence that this employee is sabotaging her business, I agree she should be terminated immediately.

MimiFix Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 6:12pm

I'm speaking as a former bakery owner who had employees: I agree with Liz. There are too many red flags with this situation. You can't always educate a bad employee. Theoretical advice sounds great but the daily reality of a bad employee is simply not worth the potential for more aggravation. 

CakeChemistry Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 6:56pm

AIf she is a good baker, ambitious, aspirational, up until now supportive, then what about investing in her business? There is a reason why you took her on in the first place, she is clearly adept at learning skills and she is aspirational. I wouldn't want to stay if I didn't see a future either. If she is going to open her own business anyway and you are going to lose her, AND as well as recipes she has learnt the how tos and skills from you (like any apprentice around the world), would it be worth broaching her about investing in her business should she plan to leave? She gets investment and mentorship, you get a slice of her profits and an interest in her business, you could ask for credit and maybe percentage for use of your recipes, plus she could branch out doing stuff that is alternative to your style and have creative control in her own business. You get to refer customers between each other if you can't meet their needs etc and you don't really lose your business to her. Make a price matching for equal goods arrangement to minimise competition and encourage customer choice. Hell, you could turn it into a chain!

CakeChemistry Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 6:58pm

APs, over here, unless you can prove she steals ur intellectual property (in there anything in her contract about this?) you would have a hell of a job sacking her for no other reason than she bought an oven and she has ambition! That is legal action waiting to happen unless of course she has a string of disciplinarians under her belt and is late every day :D

CakeChemistry Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 6:59pm

ADisciplinaries. Autocorrect.

MimiFix Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 7:05pm

CakeChemistry, I'm totally floored by your suggestion. Please rethink this advice.

 

And I don't know where the OP lives, but almost everywhere in the U.S. an employee can be fired without reason. 

-K8memphis Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 7:12pm

tennessee is an 'at will' employment state--meaning the employee can quit anytime and the employer can fire you anytime for any reason including no reason--i would get an ad on craigslist now for a baker--would move trusted assistant into position to be trained by the baker for two or three days--if the baker does not come to you to question yoru actions--i would check my understanding of the situation by talking to the baker and i'd be right ready  to pull the plug--that's what i would do in tn

CakeChemistry Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 7:30pm

AWow you can't just fire in the UK, turns into a legal battle. And Mimi, as I obviously gave awful advice, can you tell me why?

MimiFix Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 7:42pm

1. The OP needs to invest in her own business.

2. Investing in a competitor's business leaves one open to accusations.

3. Most new food businesses fail. It would be throwing away money the OP needs to invest in her own business. 

CakeChemistry Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 7:45pm

AOh! I thought there would be a stronger argument against my suggestion from your comment earlier on in the post. Thanks for explaining x x

howsweet Posted 6 Nov 2013 , 9:50pm

Apparently she knows the baking, but the decorating not so much? Definitely fire her now - the longer she works the more paid training she's getting. You're training your competitor. If she's watching you decorate, what she's picking up is very valuable. Decorating habits that are obvious to you are not to others. If she's watching you, she's learning.

BrandisBaked Posted 7 Nov 2013 , 4:30am

AYou can definitely fire without good cause... But expect to pay more for unemployment taxes. There is a huge cost to indescriminate firing. And frankly, I'm offended at how callous these suggestions are. Her only crime is that she bought an oven and you want to take away her income? I could never be that heartless.

How many people has Ron Ben-Isreal had intern for him that went on to their own successful businesses? Could you imagine if he were that paranoid about people stealing his "secrets"?

rychevamp Posted 7 Nov 2013 , 4:43am

AI agree with BrandisBaked. If you are this paranoid about someone sneaking your secrets, how are you ever going to have someone work for you? Recipes are all over the place, so who can say they haven't been done before. One bakery I worked in had you sign an agreement not to use her recipes if you left. She'd had someone come in, worked a while, then took off and opened a place nearby with the same items. Not too bright in my opinion, shop didn't last either. But, I found it kinda funny that "her" recipes, especially the cakes, all came from The Cake Bible. So, couldn't figure out what she was trying to protect.

howsweet Posted 7 Nov 2013 , 5:02am

Quote:

Originally Posted by BrandisBaked 

You can definitely fire without good cause... But expect to pay more for unemployment taxes. There is a huge cost to indescriminate firing. And frankly, I'm offended at how callous these suggestions are. Her only crime is that she bought an oven and you want to take away her income? I could never be that heartless.

How many people has Ron Ben-Isreal had intern for him that went on to their own successful businesses? Could you imagine if he were that paranoid about people stealing his "secrets"?


I think people who are saying fire her, are basing their posts on the assumption that the OP has good information that the employee is preparing to start her own business. At least that's the way I'm looking at. Others are taking the OP's post in a more literal way ---and from that point of view, I definitely agree, we are all heartless to dump her over buying an oven and few pans.

 

I took the OP poster's post to mean not only had she announced she was going into business, she was starting to make business purchases. I'm thinking full sheet oven, not a new JennAire.

 

You bring up a really good point about the unemployment tax.

reginaherrin Posted 7 Nov 2013 , 5:02am

I too think it is very premature and harsh to just fire the girl.  One, you may be able to fire her for no reason but that won't stop her from trying to sue you for wrongful termination.  If she is a good worker and has had no problem and you just up and fire her she can come back and sue for possible discrimination or breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Then it will be a nightmare of lawyers and bad publicity.  Also, you are hearing the information you got about the oven second hand.  Most people never get the facts straight about anything they hear about other people so she could be mistaken or not have all the facts.  Maybe she is just replacing the oven in her kitchen because it broke.  Maybe she is wanting to do some baking for her family and needs some pans or wants to experiment with some of her own recipes.  I would definitely sit her down and ask her flat out (as nicely as can be) is she plans on opening a competing business.  At that point then you can decide to fire her if she is planning it or do something else with her.  And Brandi has a point about interns at big famous bakeries.  It sucks that someone can just come in and use your recipes for their business but if your recipes where so sacred then you should have taken precautions to protect them.  I really don't think you need to worry, you are an established business with repeat customers and some small new home-based business probably wont impact it much if at all.

jason_kraft Posted 7 Nov 2013 , 5:04am

A

Original message sent by howsweet

Apparently she knows the baking, but the decorating not so much? Definitely fire her now - the longer she works the more paid training she's getting. You're training your competitor. If she's watching you decorate, what she's picking up is very valuable. Decorating habits that are obvious to you are not to others. If she's watching you, she's learning.

Isn't the above true of any employee who is responsible for decorating?

howsweet Posted 7 Nov 2013 , 5:09am

Quote:

Originally Posted by jason_kraft 


Isn't the above true of any employee who is responsible for decorating?


Of course! But if I know someone is definitely planning to be my competitor, I would not be inclined to teach them all my tricks and tips.

jason_kraft Posted 7 Nov 2013 , 5:25am

A

Original message sent by howsweet

Of course! But if I know someone is definitely planning to be my competitor, I would not be inclined to teach them all my tricks and tips.

If a potential future competitor can't hide the fact that they are preparing to launch a competing business from their current employer, they probably won't be much of a threat. And without explicit evidence it's not clear how you can tell the difference between someone who is interested in developing their baking and decorating skills on their own time and someone who is covertly planning to launch a competing business.

If you err on the side of not firing, the worst that happens (assuming you are careful with your proprietary info) is your potential future competitor getting a little more training, which you profit from. If you err on the side of firing, the worst that happens is converting a formerly valuable employee into an enemy with a personal vendetta against you and your business who has the tools to do something about it.

howsweet Posted 7 Nov 2013 , 5:45am

Quote:

Originally Posted by jason_kraft 


If a potential future competitor can't hide the fact that they are preparing to launch a competing business from their current employer, they probably won't be much of a threat.

I don't know how you can make that statement with certainty.

 

As for all the erring... there is no foregone conclusion that firing her would make an enemy. Kind of depends on how it goes down, doesn't it?

jason_kraft Posted 7 Nov 2013 , 5:47am

A

Original message sent by howsweet

As for all the erring... there is no foregone conclusion that firing her would make an enemy. Kind of depends on how it goes down, doesn't it?

Agreed, that's why I was presenting the worst-case scenario for each case.

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