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You want to be ethical to mutually competitive clients, AND survive.
1. Form and document your policy (it doesn't matter what it is, provided
it contains statements requiring compliance with the next two items.
2. Include the policy in your proposals and contracts.
3. You and your clients sign to adhere to same.
That list will ensure that whatever your policy might be your behaviour
will be ethical.
Now, what else should the policy contain? Only matters of MUTUAL benefit. I
believe som court rulings have thrown out clauses as unconscionable(sp?)
because of clauses that were either 'unduly' restrictive or carried no
commensuarate recompense or advantage. Thus:
1. Confidentiality of CLIENT information AND YOUR methods of work
2. Undertaking of a period of exclusivity on your part PROVIDED the
Client specifies in writing which specific branded products or which
specific services for which specific companies you are not to have as focus
for a project (for a competitive firm may have some departments in quite
different lines), and states 'without written approval which shall not be
unreasonably withheld', and at least one of the following:
* Client undertakes to use YOU exclusively for all their work of
that kind throughout said period, for not less than X hours per ... or
* Additional fee without any other obligation on your part, in
consideration of each identified firm's product, or
* you get the idea. The more potential business you give up, the
more they pay.
Now, what do you do when they say 'but XYZ will sign those terms
without getting any recompense'?
"Well, I gather you are looking for an ethical contract here -
preserving your secrets - fair trading in every sense of the word?" - how
can they say no to that?
"As this is an ethical contract, then, we both must benefit, or why are
we talking - I will stay exclusive to your company as long as you want -
but wouldn't it be naive of me to offer you that for free?"
Then you have to decide how desperate your are for work.
The firms you WANT to have for clients will be fair to you.
I have just signed an agreement of this type - it specified exactly who
the competitors are, and as I have never had a nibble from them and don't
expect to, it was easier to fold than fight. Anyhow, if it did come up I
can contact them I fairly sure that if the work was in another area so I
couldn't accidently leak what I had learnt, I am reasonably sure - from the
sort of firm they seem to be - that they would give me a letter of release.
The whole question of fair dealing is one of business experience, the
power of the buck, market forces and negotiating skills - far more than
ethics, I reckon.
Peter Collins, VIVID Management Pty Ltd,
26 Bradleys Head Road, MOSMAN 2088, Australia
+61 2 9968 3308, fax +61 2 9968 3026, mobile +61 (0)18 419 571
Management Consultants and Technical Writers
email: peter -dot- collins -at- bigfoot -dot- com ICQ#: 10981283
web pages: http://www.angelfire.com/pe/pcollins/