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This article is reprinted with permission from the January 27, 2006, issue of the Philadelphia Business Journal.

One of the most common ways a business faces the threat of substantial loss of its customers' confidential information and trade secrets is when a key employee joins a competitor or forms a competing company. Given the mobility of today's work force and the ever increasing technological ease of copying and transporting information, it is essential for all businesses to take proactive steps to protect themselves and prevent or minimize such losses.

An effective plan to address the loss of a key employee involves numerous legal and business tools, such as employment agreements with restrictive covenants, confidentiality policies, restricted access to sensitive information and the development of strong, shared customer relationships and company brand loyalty. A well-prepared and properly conducted exit interview is a frequently overlooked — yet valuable — additional measure that often yields timely and insightful information needed to help assess what risk, if any, the business faces as the employee departs.

Proper exit interview preparation is essential to make the most out of what will likely be your only opportunity to discuss the details of the employee's departure.