Non-competes don't have to be exclusionary straight jackets if negotiated properly. Before signing a restrictive covenant with a new employer, have a solutions-oriented dialogue about customizing terms. Frame it as ensuring the agreement allows both parties to achieve our mutual goals.
Float reasonable alternatives that contain their legitimate business protections without unduly limiting your career horizons. For example:
- Geography: Press for clearly defined restricted regions based on locations you will actually serve rather than vague “footprints.” Insist on precise office sites, territories, and tight mile radius limits rather than sweeping inclusion of “areas the company touches” that may extend restrictions in unforeseen ways.
- Timeframes: Propose shorter non-compete durations than the state maximums such as 6-12 months applicability with gradual phase-outs. Additionally, suggest milestone check-ins to revisit ongoing necessity, especially for restrictions above 1 year. Make them justify why prolonged limits remain essential given how quickly business conditions evolve.
- Milestone Reviews: Schedule automatic reviews every 6-12 months and/or upon career advancement milestones to reassess whether current non-compete breadth limitations remain relevant or require revision to protect legitimate interests without overextending geographically, in duration or scope.
- Scope Limiting: Explore tailoring the prohibited competitive activities only to your particular subfield specialty, service area rather than banning any role vaguely defined as “competing” across massive sectors irrelevant to actual vulnerabilities. Similarly, restrict based on daily responsibilities vs. categorical title-based bans that group dissimilar functions.
- Reciprocity: Require quantified commitments around career development support in exchange for non-compete concessions such as dedicated training, job shadowing rotations and mentorship worth a specified annual dollar amount. Sets mutual skin in the game.
- Reasonability Clause: Specify in writing that restrictions strictly safeguard discrete proprietary methodologies or innovations you create to preserve legal standing. Helps defeat overreach complaints.
- Alternate Concessions: Where restrictions remain excessive from your lens, demand preferential considerations like bonus pay during the non-compete term, public references, accelerated releases, or conversion to narrowly tailored non-solicitation pacts enabling greater mobility.
The goal is molding reasonable protections for all via dialogue, not acceptance of rigid boilerplates. Specialized legal counsel can further advise on pursuing additional counterbalances like non-solicitation pacts or compensation for atypically broad restrictions.
With a solutions-focused approach, you can often realign non-competes to still protect legitimate business interests while enabling your future career fluidity as well. The key is constructive communication.
Remember any signed non-compete still requires review by a qualified employment lawyer to ensure enforceability and opportunities later for redress. Negotiate the best possible terms today, while still understanding your future outs should you require career flexibility.