Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with this process. It is the cost of building a successful business. When people really start to come at you and your business, you must be doing something right; as Iago warns us, “Beware the green-eye of jealousy.”
The sad reality of doing business includes negative people who do mean you harm. It can feel extremely discouraging when you’ve worked incredibly hard to build your business to only find others riding on your coattails, or worse, actually harassing your business. While this is all troubling, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
- Be Proactive. Consider protecting yourself before a problem occurs.
- Register your trademark – both your business name and logo – through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
- Hire a lawyer on retainer to remain on standby. Especially if you’re dealing with numerous contracts or are working with a unique idea, this method may be worth your investment.
- Get everything in writing. If you’re dealing with a company or individual who is making you feel uneasy, do not deal with them on the telephone, work strictly in email and retain copies of everything. If you must work via telephone and someone is making you uncomfortable, let them know they will be recorded and proceed to record your conversation.
- Document Every Incident of Harassment. Whether it’s by email, mail, or phone. Record, screenshot, and save every piece of harassment. As mentioned in number 1, if an incident is happening over the phone, be sure to clearly state that you are recording before beginning to record, but be sure to record the conversation. We actually recommend you are never alone when communicating with someone harassing you – always CC on emails or three-way in phone calls so you have a witness to the harassment. Document everything and go down to the local authorities to file a written complaint. Be sure to bring your evidence.
- Do Not Retaliate or Respond to any Harassment. Continue to maintain impeccable records of when the incident first occurred, and every other incident thereafter. If the harassment is violent in any way, immediately call 911 and report it to local authorities, but do not retaliate!
- Combat the Harassment Legally. Contact a lawyer to share the information you have saved about what is happening to your business. Your lawyer may then direct you to either contact the local authorities or begin working on a Cease & Desist Letter.
- Cease & Desist Letters are legal documents which specifically outline the harassing behavior that you want to be stopped and detail what will happen to the harasser if he/she continues to engage in the behavior. These letters are the first step when preparing to file a harassment suit.
- If the harassment continues, your lawyer may suggest you file a harassment suit. At this point, you will absolutely need a lawyer as well as have had police intervention.
Hopefully, your business will never have to deal with this level of harassment. However, remember that if you do it is best to seek out the advice of small business professionals and legal advice before the circumstances can feel overwhelming.