Monday, January 30, 2012

Spies Like Us! - On Non-Disclosure Agreements

This post is prompted by a debate with some SaaSi colleagues a couple of weeks back. That in itself was prompted by me answering the inquiry "what are you working on?" with something like "I'd love to tell you but I'm under NDA". TBH that's not true. The truth is, NDA or not, I've been entrusted with this stuff so I'm not gonna share it, with anyone. The NDA makes no me!

TBH what I said was just a flippant alternative to the likes of, "I could tell yer, but I'd have to kill yer"; which may have been slightly amusing way back in the day!

So just what is the point of the NDA? 

We all know that not everyone has scruples. That there is a minority that do indulge in skulduggery: who cannot be trusted. 

These cockroaches prey on peoples trust and good nature. The damage they do can be far-reaching. Think of them as the spam of consulting and freelancing. The virus, the con-man or simply, low-life. The NDA (or Confidentiality Agreement) is purely to cover off against these arseholes and provide peace of mind to those with something to protect.

Look, anyone who knows me, knows about my loyalty and my integrity. Know me well on a personal level and you'll know that you can trust me with absolutely anything. Likewise, when it comes to my chosen profession. It's chosen for a good reason. It interests me. Whisper it quietly, I love it! 

Often, even when 'off-duty', I might even ask whoever I'm in the company of, about relatively sensitive topics. I and others don't ask these questions because we're spies! I ask because I'm genuinely interested. As those who know me, know. And they answer my questions because they are able to and because they know it won't go any further.

These are far from unique qualities. I know that I'm not the only guy who doesn't freely divulge this type of info: whether paid or not. I get paid for knowledge accumulated and then distilled. Not to blurt out everything I've ever been told in good faith.

But more often than not, I'm hired by someone who doesn't know me so well. What they do know is that I have dealt with alot of SaaS orgs in the UK on many different levels and therefore it's likely that I have existing relationships with guys at some of these and likely, one or two of those are gonna be competitors. This is an incredibly common occurrence of course; throughout the business world and especially the tech world.

Bearing all this in mind and how the world works it makes nothing but good sense to ask me and anybody else in the right circumstance to sign an NDA. It's not a besmirch on my character. It's common-sense on the part of people I believe in. And make no mistake, I work with people because I believe in them. 

Why wouldn't you want to sign an NDA?

The NDA is an opportunity. 'Always selling' is a truism. Whether it be an idea, a concept, a partnership, a product, a service or yourself. It's a process. What better way to say I'm your man, than to suggest signing an NDA. If you're serious about what you do then it's not a problem. Don't baulk at it, embrace it. What better way to put someone at ease. What a trust factor!

In the tech and SaaS world it is not uncommon that the CEO/MD and even Founder have investors to appease. If it was your money you'd want assurance at every turn too. They have to sell to these investors in the same way. The NDA that you sign is part of that process.

So as soon as the question of disclosure is raised (and it will be), you offer to sign an NDA. What's the big deal? You're a man of integrity and you love what you're being asked to do. It's a no-brainer. Put all at ease and move on to the real nitty gritty! 

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