Most dilemmas that arise while starting a business from someone else's office have to do with questions like whether it's OK to contact your employer's clients, whether you can use ideas formed on the job that relate to your employer's business, and how far you can stray under threat of a "noncompete" clause in your employment contract.
Some entrepreneurs skirt these reservations completely by spending their working time in fields other than their start-ups. Christopher Jones, owner of New York City start-up business consulting firm Progressive Solutions, knew he had to get experience in the professional world before striking out on his own, but he didn't want to risk bad karma to get it. Before going full-time with his company in 1991, Jones worked for two years at various businesses, including an alarm company and an accounting software firm.
"It's always difficult to be upfront and not hide anything, at least for me," he says. "I did all my [business's work] at night and on weekends, but my boss did notice how exhausted I was all the time. I didn't tell him what I was doing because I think if you do it in your off hours, it's not your boss's business."
Besides this separation of church and state, the 31-year-old adds, "Another thing that helped me think about it ethically is that I was never competing in the same area. I made it a point to work at places that were similar but where I wouldn't be competing [with my employer] directly. That's difficult, but it's worth it."