Navigating Workplace Relationships with Employment Law Attorney Alan Crone
Running a business isn’t just about having a good product or service. It’s also about how you navigate growth, manage workplace relationships, and ultimately build the foundation for your business. Our guest today will tell you all about it!
Meet Alan Crone. Alan is an Employment Law Attorney, the Founder and Chief Executive of The Crone Law Firm, and a published book author. Specializing in employer-employee conflicts, intellectual property matters, and commercial issues, Alan and his team are focused on helping their clients resolve workplace disputes. Alan has extensive experience as lead counsel in nationwide class actions, handling cases involving employment-related matters such as discrimination, age discrimination, ADA, non-compete contracts, union representation, and more. His book ‘The Law at Work: A Legal Playbook for Executives and Professionals’ serves as a helpful guide for navigating employer/employee relationships.
Alan believes that honesty and transparency are critical for preventing lawsuits and terminations and ultimately creating a healthy work environment.
In this episode of the Think Business with Tyler podcast, we talk about the importance of protecting your intellectual property as a business owner, why taking proactive measures is vital, how to build positive workplaces, and the power of genuine connections and networking.
If you want to learn more about navigating and preventing workplace issues, make sure to tune into this episode to hear Alan’s insights.
💡 Name: Alan Crone
💡 What he does: He’s the Founder and Chief Executive of The Crone Law Firm.
💡 Noteworthy: Alan’s book ‘The Law at Work: A Legal Playbook for Executives and Professionals’ is a handy guide for avoiding, preventing, and navigating workplace conflict.
💡 Key Quote: “Business is all about relationships, and success in business is all about relationships.”
💡 Where to find Alan: LinkedIn
Protect your business. Your safest bet in business is to protect whatever gives you a competitive advantage because that’s essentially your intellectual property. Whether that’s the systems you use to scale or your choice of vendors, make sure you protect everything you’ve invested significant time and resources in. Alan explains, “In 2023, what sets you apart is your intellectual property. It’s whatever systems you have to scale. That’s intellectual property. Who your vendors are could be intellectual property. Whatever gives you a competitive advantage. That’s where you want to use these agreements, nondisclosure agreements, non-compete agreements, nonsolicitation agreements, to protect those relationships, to protect those systems and processes that you’ve invested countless hours and probably a lot of money in. And I think you really want to start thinking about that when it’s just you and really thinking through, okay, what makes my business special and protecting it and then developing a culture of that.”
When it comes to compliance, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you want to protect your business as much as possible, don’t wait for any issues to arise. It’s better to think ahead and address compliance proactively. Alan explains, “There’s an old Chinese proverb. The best time to plant a tree is today or 20 years ago. So, what you want to do is go ahead and plant your HR compliance tree right now before you have an issue. Let’s say you’ve got 25 to 30 employees. You may not have enough HR where you’ve got a full-time person, but get there all kinds of fractional services. Now, you can go and find you somebody who will be your HR consultant and maybe give you 10 or 20 hours a week or 5 hours a week, whatever you need, but can make sure that your employee handbook is good, make sure that you’ve got documented processes and procedures, make sure that you’ve got good job descriptions.“
Build a mission-driven workplace. There’s nothing more powerful than a trouble-free and cohesive workplace. That’s the secret recipe for success when it comes to preventing workplace issues and maintaining a healthy culture. According to Alan, the best way to achieve this balance at work is to hire people who will share your mission. He says, “What you want is you want a homogeneous workforce when it comes to your mission. And if you’ve got people that are passionate about your mission and passionate about helping you accomplish your mission all of a sudden, you’re not going to have nearly as many personnel or disciplinary matters as you did before when that wasn’t your yardstick. […] I tell everybody that I think the best first step in HR compliance and staying out of the workforce is hiring the right people and providing them whatever they need to do well, and then you’re going to get to a place where you never fired anybody.”
Businesses are built on relationships. Never underestimate the power of genuine relationships in business. These relationships are the cornerstone of success, especially when you’re first starting out. Alan explains, “Business is all about relationships, and success in business is all about relationships. […] If you’ve got a true relationship with a lot of people where you’ve helped people, you’ve helped a number of people succeed that comes back to you. I can’t tell you how many opportunities that I have taken advantage of that have come to me simply because of the relationships in my life. And if I had to do it over again, I would slow down, and I would take advantage of more opportunities that came to me because of my relationships.”
“When you’re talking about a business of that size [under $10 million in revenue], unless they’re in a particularly litigious area, where maybe they have a union or for whatever reason, they’ve just got people kind of coming in and out. Those businesses, in my experience, tend to be fairly stable, and the biggest problem I see is that business owners at that stage kind of put human resources and personnel issues kind of off to the side. And don’t really think about it. They’ve got 25 or 30 employees. They think, ‘Well, we’re not really large enough to worry about employment law.’ And then they may have a one-off situation that causes them a lot of problems, a wrongful termination, or maybe a wage-an-hour issue. And a lot of that can be avoided by being a little proactive with your HR compliance.”
“If you’re a business owner, you’ve got a legitimate interest in protecting your trade secrets, protecting the investments that you make in certain workers. I think that there was an old adage in law school, ‘Hogs get fat, pigs get slaughtered.’ And business has used these agreements to really try to take advantage of people kind of down the organizational chart.”
“The enforceability of these agreements is not nearly as valuable as the threat of the enforceability. Most of them, as they’re written, are unenforceable, and it depends on what state you’re in. […] But the word I always say is one of the worst curses I can give you, Tyler, is may you have a good defense to a lawsuit because having a good defense to a lawsuit is expensive. I always say it’s one thing to be guilty and try to make a deal to get out. It’s another thing to know you’re right and then be looking down the barrel of a five-figure or even six-figure legal bill to prove that you’re right.”
“I always say it’s not a brick wall, but it is a big speed bump or a speed table. You’ve got to slow down and negotiate it. And sometimes that’s enough to say, well, I’m gonna hire the person who doesn’t have a non-compete. They’re both equally good. I’m going to go in that direction.”
“If you’re an entrepreneur and you want to protect certain processes or keep a valued employee from going somewhere else, my advice there is to get a custom-drafted, non-compete. You get something off the Internet. It may or may not work. But if you drafted something pretty tight that’s clearly customized to this particular situation in this particular business interest that you’re trying to protect, it’s going to be a lot. It’s going to be a lot more credible and a lot more enforceable.”
“No matter which side of the V you’re on, just to understand that social media is admissible. It’s something that’s going to be used down the road. If you’re an employee, don’t bad-mouth your employer on social media. If you’re an employer, don’t bad-mouth your people on social media. It seems like that should go without saying, but some people think, for some reason, social media is just a different world, and it doesn’t count.”