What is a company without sales? Out of business. That's why many business owners are afraid to turn over valued client relationships to a newly recruited representative or manager. To reduce the risk of losing customers during the transition, Kevin Owens, a sportswear producer in Burlington, Vt., hit upon a way to hedge his bet: Hand over some--but not all--of the key accounts to the new sales manager. The arrangement put some healthy pressure on the manager to prove he could bring in new customers (he did), and it allowed Owens to keep a hand in the growth of Select Design, which projects sales of $4 million in 1998.

Another way to minimize the risk is--don't shudder--to make the sales manager a shareholder. That way, the new hire is tied more tightly to your company than to your prized customers. And if you have the sales manager/shareholder sign a noncompete agreement, it stands a much better chance of holding up in court.

Copyright 1998 G+J USA Publishing