“If they don’t read it before signing, that’s scary, and if they are too pedantic that is also a red flag”
The Grid: At the Venture Café Talks event last week at The Cribb, you shared your experiences with confidentiality breaches as a startup, specifically focusing on NDAs and third party agreements. Though your experiences haven’t always been great, you would still have them in place. Is that right?
Ahmad Al-Hidiq: A lot of people see them as just a paper and no one takes them seriously. We are keen on having them in place because you never know what can happen. It’s more of a scare tactic than actually going the route to hire a lawyer in the case of an issue at the early stage of your business. NDAs also help filter through people to work with based on their reaction. If they don’t read it before signing, that’s scary, and if they are too pedantic that is also a red flag. It reflects intent to break an NDA. The review process helps you understand your counter party’s character and willingness to co-operate. You work more with those who follow through and even return information as per the NDA after the engagement.
The Grid: How long are your NDAs and do they differ quite a bit depending on whether they are signed with an “employee” versus a “vendor” for instance?
Ahmad Al-Hidiq : Our NDAs are typically three pages and each time we learn new things we add clauses and now we have templates for everything.
- We try to define our relationship with vendors with an initial agreement that is more of a partnership or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
- Confidentiality clauses are embedded into all documents.
- We don’t share source codes or business plans.
The Grid: So the challenge for you in regards to NDA’s is really with individuals who may have greater access to your IP, right?
Ahmad Al-Hidiq: Yes, we have faced issues with outsourced human resources. We had one case, where we refused to make a portion of the payment due to the poor quality of work received. The provider threatened to go public with information that was highly confidential and could have hurt the business. Things like that can come back and haunt you years later when someone does a Google search for example.
The Grid: What’s your advice to other entrepreneurs dealing with similar problems?
Ahmad Al-Hidiq, co-founder at Heydoc!, second from left, at Venture Cafe Talks at The Cribb
Ahmad Al-Hidiq: There is always a solution.
- Don’t give in to blackmail.
- Your brand is super important so be patient and tactical in your dealings.
- Divide responsibilities internally and externally if you can.
- Don’t make a decision when you are angry.
- Don’t make a promise when you are happy.
My dad always told me this. I live by it. When you are at conflict, especially with developers, don’t make an impulsive decision. Always hold your data securely and don’t give access to information that they [freelancers] don’t need, only provide what they really need to know.
The power of discussion and communication should not be underestimated. Try to resolve conflict that way – it often is solvable.
The Grid: It takes a people person to be able to manage conflict, like you speak of. Not everyone is good at that. How did you develop the skill?
Ahmad Al-Hidiq: I spent a lot of time doing sales, consulting, business development and that helped me learn skills in how to communicate. Thinking on your feet and coming up with an idea or solution instantly while having a chat, for instance. During a complex conversation, you can’t just say “ok, I will come back to you on this”. You have to come up with solutions on the spot and you don’t have the luxury of a “strategy team” that helps you with negotiation and conflict resolution.
It’s also useful to read about conflict resolution. It is valuable to understand more about this as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you are fire fighting every day.
This is an extract from an interview with Ahmad Al-Hadiq, co-founder at Heydoc!
HeyDoc! is an award winning global telemedicine platform dedicated to connecting patients with the right medical consultants.
Interview by Tasneem Mayet, Research Director, The Grid Media Ltd
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