Protecting Yourself and Your Ideas
As a FitPro, your business is based on you having an idea and selling it to clients, other FitPros and the public. The very nature of your company, brand and business is selling your ideas and having people buy into their effectiveness. This is true whether you are a big box gym, a small personal training studio, or a coach who helps other FitPros grow their business. The idea needs to be compelling, believable and effective, if it is not no one will join your group or pay you for your services. The problem is how do you prevent people from stealing your idea or knowledge and using it for their own personal gain. This can be the client who gets the program but decides to cancel their contract with you and utilize the content on their own, it can be another trainer who takes your marketing or plan and utilizes it as their own, or another coach who takes your well thought out process and sells it as their own. Anything that can be done to gain an advantage without doing the work can be a hazard of doing business in the FitPro community.
When this happens to you, it is infuriating. You have taken the time to develop, enhance, change, grow and nature your idea into a well balanced and well thought out program. You take the time to consider your clients and their needs and do your best to ensure they are getting those needs met with the services you offer. So what is a FitPro to do if they find their ideas have been stolen? The answer is not simple and should involve counsel early on, but there are ways to protect your assets and your business.
Never let your frustration out on social media. The person may have wronged you, but the slippery slope of defamation is not worth it for get a feeling of vindication. If you have conducted business with a person and they have wronged you, no matter whether you were right or not, keep it to yourself. It may be something different if you have done business with them as the service provider and contracted for their services, but that is a topic for another day.
Review your contract and determine what if anything is contained within it to protect you and your work. Make sure that you always consider your contracts as you move forward in your business, make changes as necessary no matter how well established your business may be. One contract does not fit all as the business evolves. Even if edits to your contract are reactionary to someone stealing your ideas, it is better to be burned once than to lose the business because you didn't learn from past mistakes. A few key points to think of in the contract:
Make sure there is acknowledgement that the information they are receiving is proprietary and is meant for personal use and not reporduction
If there is reproduction of the material, have a firm and set list of consequences, both monetary and non monetary so there is no confusion what will happen next
Establish boundaries for when and how the relationship and access is going to end and what steps will be taken to limit access in the future after termination. Also what happens if down the road after the relationship has terminated, they begin utilizing the ideas, plans and models you have established. There must be some repercussion for that action clearly spelled out in the contract as well.
Consider copyright and trademark protection. It is important to discuss what these ideas mean with a knowledgable attorney. The investment you will make in hiring counsel and creating these protections will pay you back ten fold in the future especially if your business starts to take off. I won't go into the dynamics of either copyright or trademark protections here because it is long and mostly boring to non lawyer types, but it is essential if you plan to continue to grow your ideas.
A cease and desist letter is your best friend. It should be sent under the guidance of counsel who can enforce it, but part of your job as an idea maker is to protect your idea and be aware of inappropriate use in the marketplace. Even if you have a copyright or trademark on the product, there is some monitoring and defense required on your part to keep those marks and protections strong and intact. You may not be able to police every bit of your company, but hiring good counsel can assist you and keep your idea and product safe. Early and frequent protection helps to get the word out that you cannot and will not be bullied or copied and that you will take whatever steps necessary to protect your brand.
Take it personally, but be flattered, and move on. Unless the copying is so egregious that you cannot not do anything except address it because of the severe financial burden it is placing on your company, take the copying as a compliment and keep on moving. If someone is so desperate to steal your ideas, they will not be successful long term as they cannot sustain their business without more stealing or creating on their own. I know this is easier said than done, but it is important to keep a perspective and not create a bigger problem for yourself than is necessary.
I am alway happy to help a FItPro have the best contract and intellectual property protection available. It is important to speak to counsel before doing anything on your own. Remember, it is my job to deal with these situations and because it is not my business, it is easier for me to take a stand where you may not be able to, I can't be bullied based on fear of what may happen to the business. That is worth every penny you may spend on these services. We're here when you need us, so feel free to book a consultation today.