Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fairness in Business – Unheard Of

Recently I turned down a contract from a client, and I have been thinking about this based on a meeting I had recently with a potential client.

The potential client was reacted with shock, that I would turn down a contract from a current client. I suppose her logic was, if they are good enough to be a current client, then why turn down anything they send my way.

When asked I why I turned them down, she reacted with just as much shock – which shocked me, as this person has a background in human resources management, so I thought my reaction was fair.

I told this potential client the primary reason for me turning down a current client’s contract – they didn’t give me enough time to seriously consider their new contract.

For those of you following this blog, you’ll know I typically require no less than two-weeks to consider a contract. Two-weeks is the bare minimum afforded to pretty much all professionals in terms of starting and leaving their current jobs. Actually, it isn’t all that uncommon for people in management and higher level roles to provide far more than two-weeks written notice, of any changes to their contracts.

So when a company, as my previous client did, comes to me within a couple of days of my contract ending, with a new contract in it’s place, I typically will turn them down.

I was shocked when the potential client was just as shocked that I would enforce such a basic requirement. Having her human resources background, I’m sure if an employee of hers just walked out of a job, without providing at least two-weeks notice, she wouldn’t exactly be all too thrilled.

Just as I wasn’t all too thrilled to be given pretty much the exact same contract I had signed a year ago, for a contract which was to end in a few days. This previous client had informed me they were considering me for a far greater role within the organization, based on my performance, and I had indicated I’d consider that role, so long as I had enough time to do so.

But not only did they fail to provide that role, they left it to the last minute and didn’t provide me with sufficient time to consider what they were offering.

So I turned them down, and moved on, as many professionals would.

Though from the reaction of the potential client, you’d think I had broken some sort of sacred trust set in stone.

Fairness in business must be a new concept, if it even exists. All the contracts I get are typically one-sided, leaving me to clean them up and make them more fair, by balancing out the client’s needs with my own. When it comes to negotiating these contracts, most companies expect and anticipate there will be some negotiations. They are often amazed that all I did was make it a fair and balanced contract – they were expecting I’d change the scales of balance to favour me.

So I suppose this should tell me that fairness doesn’t exist in the business world. People just care about their own skins, and not those of whom they have to actually work with.

That’s a sad and pathetic methodology in today’s high-tech world, where being fair is often no harder than simply re-writing a contract on your computer, or in the case of providing a reasonable, and professional amount of time to negotiate changes to a contract, no harder than setting a reminder in your Outlook (or whatever online calendar you use).

The wheels of the economy seem to continually go ‘round and ‘round, but those wheels must be square, because no one has realized the benefits of being fair in business.

Until the business world learns that the best business relationships are forged on trust, equality, fairness and balance, then the wheel really hasn’t been invented yet, as those wheels may spin, but a square wheel just won’t get you very far.

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