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What’s Ethics Got To Do With It?

What’s Ethics Got To Do With It?

Some time ago, I received a call from someone at Toyota. He said that they needed a keynote speaker for a major conference, and that someone referred him to me. He liked what he saw, but asked if I could Fedex a press kit and demo video.

When I asked what the hurry was, he said that his boss would make the decision the next day, and two of his colleagues were heavily supporting someone presented by a speakers bureau. My guy thought I was far better, but there was no time for me to talk to the decision maker. Could I do this for him?

I could and I did. The next day he presented my video and his two colleagues presented the speakers bureau recommendation. (Oddly and ironically, that bureau represented me, as well, but didn’t put me up for the job.) The buyer said to pull three people from the intended audience, show them the two videos, and let them vote.

All three voted for me. Everyone at the Toyota end shook hands, said it worked out well, and they told me to send them a contract. Then the fun began.

The bureau called me that same day and told me THEY had just landed me a job at Toyota! They said they had put me forward and they were successful. They wanted to rush me a contract. I called their bluff, told them I knew what had happened, and they weren’t getting this business (nor their commission). They then said—listen to this—”We have a relationship with the client so we’ll write the contract.”

They expected me to go through them and pay them a 30% commission! I asked if they thought that was ethical. They couldn’t grok that. “What does ethics have to do with it, it’s our client,” they said. So for not marketing me at all, and trying to deny me the job, they wanted a commission.

“No,” I pointed out, “it’s MY client. And if you interfere again and try to connive money out of this, I’ll file an ethics complaint with the National Speakers Association, and then you’ll know what ethics has to do with it.”

They backed off. But I bet they’ve obtained a lot of “business” by cheating speakers out of fees that would have come to them anyway. This is why you can’t be dependent on “middlemen,” “agents,” “brokers,” or resources who promise they’ll support you in return for a fee.

(The Toyota deal became a six-figure relationship, including video, audio, and appearances. Imagine sharing all of that with the bureau?!)

Middlemen add no value. You are the talent. The client is yours. Act like it.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 4

  • Tony

    January 8, 2008

    Alan –

    You’ve pointed out that middlemen add no value, yet you have used an agent (Jeff) when publishing books. Do you see a literary agent as an exception to your rule?

    I’m surprised they didn’t back down and get off the phone quickly when you called them “out”. I may have pushed it a little more and contacted their management with a written complaint. One thing I have a hard time tolerating is unethical people and down right lying.

    As a consultant, person, father, son, brother, community member, etc., the one thing I can stand by is my word and pure ethics. Once you lose your word, there’s no going back.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • January 9, 2008

    Alan-

    I have never encountered such a problem, but your blog opens my eyes to many potential pitfalls in the industry. I appreciate the insight.

  • January 31, 2008

    Way to go Allan, I am also getting to a place where I am going to sit with each bureau who is “supposed” to be representing me and getting down to the question of their value add to my business.

    This is almost like estate agents selling houses they dont own, will not renovate and just place an add with a lot of others in their site, paper etc and wait for the phone to ring and then make hefty commissions.This is what some bureaus do…sit and wait for the email or phone and then send out a few names and then collect the commission, without really selling.

    This is my business, my life, my talent, my investment and I have to be able to reap the rewards which are congruent to my investment. The time has come for the middle man to prove their value or have a nice day.

    I remember quite well when we met at the PSA in Birmingham and you gave a keynote and highlighted the issue of taking control of the bookings , I totally agree that we all need to be “bold” and take control of all our business process…BRAVO!

  • February 1, 2008

    I will never have enough space to record the gross unethical experiences I have had over the last 15 years with agents and PCO’s. From agents who have sold me for 3 years to clients without ever having seen me or even know what I do, to another demanding commission from me for a gig that they themselves tried to dissuade the client from using me.Only for the client to come to me directly. From adding almost double my fee onto the clients quotes after screwing down my fee because the “client has no budget!” To even having an agent write on an international agents newsletter how disgusting it was to meta-tag a speakers name (who they don’t represent)and brand, to steer clients to their web site so they can sell another speaker. Only to find not only was I meta-tagged on her site but my bio and photo was listed as one of their speakers. You have inspired me to capure all these and other experiences on my own blog. Good for you. How do we send these people’s names to each other so we can …. have a heads up?

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