I'm not going to reveal names or companies but some contractors believe they should teach their employees everything they know -- and should even open their books to employees so the employee feels more a part of the company and better understands some of the company decisions. Other contractors keep a tight rein on their workers, teaching them only as much as they need to know to perform their specific job -- and no more. Which approach is best? I lean toward the former but that depends as much on the people you employ as your comfort level with revealing that much information. But contractors who opt for the latter approach -- revealing information on a need-to-know basis only -- have a point. We have all heard stories of contractors who took employees under their wing, taught them the skills, and taught them the business, only to have them leave and start up their own business competing with their mentor and calling on some of their former employer's best accounts. Not the most ethical approach to be sure. But the folks who leave to start their own business aren't necessarily evil; in fact they might be great people who just came to the realization (as their employer at one time did) that they want to run their own company and work for themselves. Good for them. But they should start their business in a way that doesn't immediately threaten their employer, and they should start by scouring the market for new clients -- not cherry pick the clients from their old job. Barbara Rose, in a recent Chicago Tribune column, points out that more and more frequently employers of all types are demanding, employees are signing, and courts are upholding non-compete clauses in employment contracts. The effective clauses have a reasonable end date and it's one way to feel a little more comfortable as you teach your employees everything they need to know. I'm not a fan of restricting a person's ability to feed himself and his family, but as Rose's article points out there are ways to comply with the letter of the non-compete while still earning a living in the same industry. On the other hand, when you do a good job training, and a protege leaves to make his or her own way, you might just have upgraded the industry a little bit. I know of a number of contractors who have encouraged employees to strike out on their own, the result being another quality contractor providing a quality service -- even if he does compete with his former employer.