Starting Another Business While Working for Someone Else

Ethical ways to start another company or create a new job while working for someone else.

“When you take the King’s shilling, you are the King’s man.” Is a quote from Old English that still resonates today. When you are employed by a company you are expected to abide by company policies and to the best of your ability promote the company’s interests. This practice is enforceable not only by company policies, but also in many circumstances by law. You may be prosecuted for the theft of real or intellectual property. You will, as a condition of your employment, often have signed a non-disclosure agreement where you agree not to disclose a company’s trade secrets, patent information, etc.

Given this constraint, how does a person ethically seek to start his own company while being employed by another? I strongly advocate this policy in my new business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” Not only this, but I maintain that you should actually start and run it quietly in the background while you are working for others in order to have income for you and your family should your job be abruptly terminated.

In the gig economy it is assumed when you are hired to fill a short-term position, and that you will be continually looking for another job either within that company or for your next job somewhere else. You might even start your own company. Everyone’s options are seemingly open. Just as your company might hire or fire you without notice, you ethically have the right to do the same.

Corporate Jobholder

There are two distinct approaches to starting your own business while working, depending on the job that you hold. If you are a member of a cooperation where you were first hired, say as a junior Tech person and worked up through middle management, you would likely have been with the company for five years or more; but for whatever reason seem to be stuck with no obvious way up within the company organization – or none you want to take. In this case, the concept of starting your own entrepreneurial enterprise is looking more attractive. You should:

• Look for new business opportunities in another business or service area.
• Do all your searching, contacts, interviews, etc. on your own equipment. Keep all this information on your private phone and computer. Separate your employer’s business and your own as much as possible. Pen and paper provide one of the most secure ways of recording your own thoughts as suggested by my booklet, Ideas for New Businesses, which provides inspiration for and a way of privately recording business concepts on long-distance flights. Keep track of these ideas, especially those that are not appropriate for the company for which you are working. One of these might become your next business.
• Volunteer and participate in company workshops, on committees from other parts of the production process and in joint ventures with other companies. Broadening your outlook and experiences not only enhances your personal knowledge base, but also makes you a more obviously valuable employee who is worth promoting. Keep track of such participations and any awards that you might have earned.

Gig Economy Worker

While some companies would try to eek every potential advantage our of a gig worker’s employment, and assert that they have every right to do so, temporary employment is by any standard, just that. If your “Temporary Employment” has now lasted five years or more, then it is time to think about filing a complaint with your state Labor Relations Board and see if you are not due additional benefits, such as health insurance, from the company that hired you. Unions and sometime Temp Agencies can help you in filing such a claim or correcting the situation.

• Your greatest asset in working for a variety of companies perhaps doing radically different jobs is your power of observation and adaptation. Look at jobs all around you. Could you do that job better? Is what that gal is doing really appealing to you? Can you form your own company around any of these things that you are seeing others do?
• Again, make sure that you keep your own business concepts and job searches remain your property by doing them on your own phone/computer on your own time.
• Although applicable to both types of employment situations, gig workers are even freer to ask about forthcoming projects that they might participate in, permanent positions in the company and opportunities abroad.
• Cultivate friendships with those within the company. It is entirely possible that this year’s co-worker might be next year’s boss or they might provide useful tips about future business possibilities that you can exploit.

Being in the Stew of Life

Somehow your next best business opportunity will come from something that you have experienced. Be on the lookout for that opportunity and be ready to act on it when it arrives. Then see what, if anything, can be derived from your present work experience to enable you to find out more about your new potential business without breaking ethical business rules, doing anything illegal or violating your contract. If there are extra company trainings or education, take advantage of it. You might even be able to sound out details of your business plan while taking company-supported educational programs.

A lot of this is going to have to be balanced around family activities and responsibilities. Work on your business as you can and when you can. It might be that commute time can provided your daily business hour. If so, plan for it and work on it while you ride or fly. Each day try to do something towards advancing your business. If you persist through the daily distractions of life, you can accomplish your intermediate objectives and ultimately run your own business.

These and many more tips are in my most recent business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife,” which is available from and many other sources as either a softcover or e-book. You can also find more information on my blog and over 20 YouTube business videos on the Hovey Smith YouTube Channel.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is, or has been, a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.