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How can i protect my business recipe from my trained baker?

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
I 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 icon_sad.gif now what should i do??? icon_sad.gif Help & guidance pls..
post #2 of 48

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. 

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post #3 of 48
Thread Starter 
Tnx 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 icon_sad.gif how sad...
post #4 of 48

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.

post #5 of 48
If 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?
post #6 of 48

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!

post #7 of 48

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. :)

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post #8 of 48
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.
post #9 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft View Post

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.

post #10 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft View Post

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

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post #11 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by liz at sugar View Post

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.
post #12 of 48

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. 

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post #13 of 48
If 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!
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Speech therapist by day and cake decorator when I can fit it in! Not a business, just a love of all things cake! www.facebook.com/CakeChemistryUK
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post #14 of 48
Ps, 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 icon_biggrin.gif
Speech therapist by day and cake decorator when I can fit it in! Not a business, just a love of all things cake! www.facebook.com/CakeChemistryUK
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Speech therapist by day and cake decorator when I can fit it in! Not a business, just a love of all things cake! www.facebook.com/CakeChemistryUK
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post #15 of 48
Disciplinaries. Autocorrect.
Speech therapist by day and cake decorator when I can fit it in! Not a business, just a love of all things cake! www.facebook.com/CakeChemistryUK
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Speech therapist by day and cake decorator when I can fit it in! Not a business, just a love of all things cake! www.facebook.com/CakeChemistryUK
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