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Can you keep a secret?

BY Dave Wendland

Abraham Lincoln is said to once have quipped: “It’s not me who can’t keep a secret. It’s the people I tell that can’t.”

But secret-keeping in business is no joke. According to Symantec, theft and misappropriation of trade secrets, customer lists and other intellectual assets is estimated to cost U.S. businesses $250 billion annually.

Steve Jobs was known for swearing employees to secrecy about the latest gadget being developed by Apple. These days, the next version of the iPhone is not only understood before it’s released, competitors get a head start in copying its new features and functions. And after-market programmers feverishly develop add-on applications that will debut at the same moment the iPhone 6 launches.

Has the art of keeping secrets gone the way of online privacy? I personally don’t think so — what’s changed is how you keep a secret. Here are five ideas that can help companies keep a cloak of secrecy over its latest developments.

  1. Tighten your inner circle. Remember, loose lips sink ships. If you are entrusting employees or other confidants with sensitive company information, be certain you know how they will use it. The simple rule of thumb may be to simply tell fewer people.
  2. Consider secrecy agreements. If you have concerns about employees who may flee during an upcoming product development or marketing campaign phase, execute non-competes. Although not a fail-safe, it provides something to lean on if push comes to shove.
  3. Watch competitors. Perhaps there are too many television shows about moles within organizations, but keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing is vital. If it starts to look like they are introducing a new product that is strikingly familiar, there may be cause for alarm.
  4. Understand the laws. Trade secrets can be protected by certain federal and state laws. It’s essential to take the necessary — and defensible — steps to protecting your business concepts.
  5. Develop Plan B. As you begin your planning exercises around the latest, greatest innovation, consider your fallback plan if someone lets the cat out of the bag. First, consider the damage that may be done. Then, have a Plan B that can quickly provide course-correction.

Do you have a horror story to share? Or perhaps you want to add to my list of safeguards. In either case, let me know what you think … don’t keep it a secret.


Hamacher Resource Group vice president Dave Wendland, a 20-plus-year retail industry veteran, is a popular presenter and discussion facilitator available to speak at corporate and association events on a variety of retail-related topics. HRG is a research, marketing and category management firm specializing in consumer health care at retail. Product manufacturers, healthcare distributors, retailers, technology partners and others rely on HRG for strategic and creative solutions to help build their business. Learn more at www.hamacher.com.

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The Exchange, New Balance providing footwear to Wounded Warriors

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DALLAS — The Army & Air Force Exchange Service, in conjunction with New Balance, is helping wounded service members take a step forward in their recovery process with free athletic shoes through the Wounded Care program.

Since 2007, the Exchange and New Balance have provided complimentary footwear to service members who have been injured in action. More than 400 free pairs have been provided to Wounded Warriors this year alone.

“These warriors have already sacrificed so much that the very least we can do is make sure they’ve got a good pair of shoes for their road to recovery,” stated the Exchange’s Chief of Staff Col. Tom Ockenfels.

 

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Meijer partners with Mich.-based health plan to raise Obamacare awareness

BY Alaric DeArment

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Meijer has become the latest retailer to address the need many consumers have for more information about the health insurance exchanges that are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Michigan-based mass-merchandise retailer announced Tuesday that it would partner with Michigan health plan Priority Health to raise awareness and help customers obtain information about their options as open enrollment for health insurance begins. The new program includes a website, Health Reform and You! and informational brochures distributed at the chain’s 203 stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

"We know patients will have questions about their health care, and we consider it important to be able to help them get the answers they need regarding the Affordable Care Act," Meijer drug store VP Nat Love said. "Meijer is committed to providing options to help our customers lead healthier lives. We want to help them find the information they will need to make the best choices for the health care of their families while addressing any questions or confusion they may have."

 

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