We've all made mistakes in how we conduct business over the years, No one is perfect especially not me. I have a situation that admittedly I brought on myself that simply wont' go away. Here tis...
I used to do a lot of live event production and would get a bit of work from this one sound company. One job in particular turned into 2 yearly events that I've been doing for many years now. I don't do a lot of live events anymore(since....the incident....) but have kept this client because the events were simple and paid pretty good. 3 years ago, the principle in the organization came to me and said they were tight that year and could I work with them. The event involved 2 rear projection screens(10,000 lumen projectors), 2 cameras live switched, creation of 50 or so lower thirds and Powerpoint integration. Easily done with a crew of 3 over a 10 hour day including set up and tear down for which I charged him $3000. A fair price I thought. He needed to shave $1000 off cost so we took it down to one screen and I joined the organization for $500 instead of lowering the price which sets a bad precedent. Same end result for the client and good PR for me. Later that year at another event I do for them, we were discussing the other event when he told me the sound company had not played ball and cut their price when asked. My client was none to happy about it and asked if I knew anyone who might be able to do it cheaper so I gave him a number and asked him to please be discrete since I was still acquaintences with the sound contractor. He didn't.
After he got a price from the other sound company that was MUCH lower he went straight to the owner and said "Mick Haensler said he would do sound for X Amount". I found this out when I called the owner of the sound company for an unrelated matter a few weeks later and he basically berated me for 20 minutes and told me how he would get this contract from me even if it cost him money to do so. I had heard years ago about the vindictive nature of this man and had tread lightly accordingly. While I probably shouldn't have gotten involved at all, all I did was give the client a freakin' number to help him out. I wasn't going to profit at all from the situation, just trying to help.
I went back to the client and said "DUDE!!! What are you doing to me, yer killing me, I asked you to be discrete!!!!". The client was very apologetic and assured me that he would not take a bid from the sound company for the video production(which the sound company doesn't actually do, they contract out). At the end of the day, I did the video, and the original sound company did the job for a much more reasonable price. Fast forward.
A few weeks ago I received a letter from the client inviting me to bid on the job this year, a first. OK, no big deal, they need to save money and are bidding it out so I gave him the same deal I had two years ago which effectively brings his cost down to $2000. He called me yesterday and asked what my lowest price was as I had been out bid. I asked what the bid was that he wanted me to beat and he said......wait for it......wait for it.......it's coming..........$900!!!!!!
That's right ladies and gents, a full days production with over 30 grand of gear and a crew of 3 for 900 clams. I told him have at it, couldn't and wouldn't touch that with ten foot pole. Then I asked him who gave him that bid and you guessed it, the vindictive one. I have developed a very good relationship with this client over the last 8 years. I have earned his trust and respect. For 8 years I've produced 2 events a year for him without a hitch, everything runs smoothly and professionally. I feel I have been very fair with pricing and worked out alternative scenarios to save him money that have worked very well.
Moral of the story, relationship doesn't matter anymore with a lot of folks, not all folks, but a lot of folks. This client is willing to take a bid that he knows dang well is a loss leader for the sound company. It's kind of like revenge sex. Now one could say:
"Hey Mick, you started this thing by giving him a phone number of a competitor to a guy who got you the job in the first place".
and you would be right. But here's the deal, the sound job for this one was as simple as it gets. One mic on the podium and background music for dinner for 600 people. No video feed, no nothing, 2 inputs. The sound company, having just bought a new line array, would bring in the whole enchalada. 32 channel Midas board, 8 cabs on each side, and a crew of five to set it up. Let me repeat.....A CREW OF FIVE FOR ONE MIC AND A SMOOTH JAZZ CD. For which he charged him much more than I was charging for the video production. He was ripping the client off pure and simple to help pay for his new toy. That is the only reason I got involved. Over the years I have seen this guy(sound company owner) get more self centered and greedy which is one of the reasons I got out of doing most live events because I didn't want to work with him. He would nickel and dime me to death and treat me like a pion now that he was a big shot. Not only that but I got the guy the sound company a $250,000 install 5 years ago and didn't get so much as gift card to Applebee's yet he would want a small cut of any job he got me.
So....that was cathartic wasn't it....Feel free to comment, tell me what a turd I am, how I shouldn't have gotten involved etc.....I fully own I shouldn't have gotten involved in the first place and will not do it again believe me. But dang, this guy is still out to get me which is bothersome. I have apologized to him, asked to bury the hatchet and move on to no avail. I can live with it...
Mick, I dispute your premise that it is no longer about relationships, I think your story demonstrated that they are still vital. Without the relationship, you would have been cut out of these jobs a long time ago, both on the client side and the supplier side.
If you're asking people to armchair quarterback your plays, then my contribution is that you should not have started to half-assedly take on the job of Producer if you weren't going to get paid for it or recognition and authority for it. Basically what I think I'd have told this client is:
"You can try to put this deal together yourself, a la carte, but if you put the whole thing in my lap and pay me for the trouble, I can save you more on the entire event, even WITH my fee, than you can."
Under those circumstances, you'd have been able to deal forthrightly with any and all suppliers yourself without hurting people's feelings or looking like a weasel. (not saying you WERE a weasel here, but that at least one guy thinks you look like one now). And you would have given the client what he needed most. Likewise, you would have made yourself more indispensable to this client so as to get rehired next year, as well as possible other producer work via happy references.
I think there is a common disease among people in our business where we LOVE to swoop in like the white knight and solve every problem and meet every deadline, even stupid ones, no matter the cost because we get off on helping people and demonstrating our mastery of something. And sometimes swooping in like the White Knight, you end up putting hoof prints all over the rug and leaving horse apples in the living room by accident. Moreover, people who recognize your weakness for being the hero will grow to exploit it, and this, my internet-friend-I-don't-really-know, is I think what the client is doing to you.
Re: A Rant by Bob Zelin on Mar 2, 2011 at 2:14:48 am
this is our changing economy. I just ranted about this privately to some folks, calling this "dog eat dog". I just bid on a shared storage system (my system is really cheap, with no features, and has lots of limitations), and my competitor, who is a nationally known company, and charges a FORTUNE for their professional hi end equipment, just dropped their pants, and matched my price, so they could win the bid. I have no idea of how they can even afford to do this, but today, people are so desperate for work, that what I am now seeing, is that when you say "gee I could never afford to buy that stuff" - if you call the company, and say "look, if you can't give me this price, I am buying it from the other guy" - that "big professional company" may come back to you and say "ok, but just this one time", and you get the deal of the century.
Does this make me sick - sure it does, but I am opening up my eyes to see the light in front of me.
Horse apples!? Mark, I must say, in addition to the great knowledge you share, I often read your posts just for the comic relief.
Back to topic, while I don't agree with what he did, in my opinion, the other vendor isn't really the one you should be pissed at. It sounds to me like the client is the real weasel here. It doesn't matter how apologetic he was ... sometimes actions speak too loudly to hear apologies. That client sounds precisely the kind described in Ron Lindeboom's most excellent article "Clients or Grinders: Understanding the Three Market Types". http://library.creativecow.net/articles/lindeboom_ron/clients_or_grinders.p...
I've noticed a definite trend of these kinds of issues exponentially increasing in recent years. From my own similar experiences, it really seems that, as times have gotten tougher for everyone, folks who normally hide their lack of scruples under a thin veil of friendly smiles and handshakes are just showing their true colors. I try to remain optimistic and tell myself that they aren't the majority, but many days that's a very hard sell.
I say leave the two love birds to live happily ever after and move on ... unless this is the one client that's keeping the doors of your business open, it's not worth the stress that clearly brought you to rant. I say forget about both the clowns, get off the puter, go have a glass of wine with your wife or girlfriend and tomorrow go find a couple new clients with whom you can have a healthy business relationship based on mutual respect and value.
Um, you know ... the things you say ... you're a funny guy.
For the uninitiated (but not the easily offended) ...
Definitely not like a clown though. If you insist, colorful it is ... like those little rainbow stickers people have on their cars? I think I just decided what to get you for your birthday ... http://www.overtherainbowshop.com/stickers.htm
Just kidding!! No offense to anyone ... just in jest.
Re: A Rant by Bob Cole on Mar 7, 2011 at 12:02:56 am
[Mark Suszko]"I think there is a common disease among people in our business where we LOVE to swoop in like the white knight and solve every problem and meet every deadline, even stupid ones, no matter the cost because we get off on helping people and demonstrating our mastery of something."
That is so true! On the one hand it's a fantastic trait. I owe so much to a handful of people on this and other websites. Some truly eminent experts have taken the time to set me straight, many times. I can't possibly repay them because they know so much more than I do. But I appreciate their generosity.
On the other hand, we really have to watch out for this tendency in ourselves. We can easily be exploited by people who recognize this tendency to need-to-be-needed. So I try to be careful about riding to the rescue, because as Ron is fond of saying, there are lots of grinders out there.
I justify it, business-wise, by saying that it is like putting money in the bank. There is a heart-warming article about this in today's NY Times. "The Tire Iron and the Tamale." Highly recommended.
I was once freelancing for a company doing some high end corporate editing and at some point I said something along the lines of "this desktop kit is brilliant, a few years ago it would have been outrageously expensive to do this kind of thing" in front of their client. A couple of day later I had the production manager on my back because the client had said to her that I'd said that their kit was cheap! Managed to smooth it over ok (I think), but since then I don't like to talk about anything to do with price and I'll only guide someone to a directory where they can find a list of companies (if it's a company they're after) or agencies (if they're looking for freelancers) if they specifically ask me to. Open your mouth and it's way too easy to get misunderstood or misquoted.
[Andrew Rendell]"Open your mouth and it's way too easy to get misunderstood or misquoted."
Bingo!! Unfortunately I have A.D.D. which brings with it a lack of impulse control. I've worked extremely hard on this as it has bitten me in the butt a number of times. Nonetheless I do have the occasional slip up. This was kinda sorta one of those cases. I think Mark hit the nail on the head with the White Knight analogy too. Couple that with a resentment build up and Whamo!! Open mouth insert foot....
Thanks for the feedback everyone. It's nice having a place where I can post something like this and get some "been there done that" empathy. If I haven't said it in a while, this is a great community and I feel privileged to be a part of it.
Late to this thread But here goes,
I have been asked by many clients to furnish them with leads
on how to get services cheaper than their existing vendors
(who I may or may not know)
My rule of thumb is ALWAYS:
1.Provide at least three (so they, not you make a choice)
2.Know that they are more expensive ( make them feel good)
3.Know that they are qualified ( cover your butt)
4. Explain that you are passing on just a name and NOT making
a reccomendation or endorsement of any kind(cover your butt again)
If I can't do the above I suggest the MPE or 411 guide.
I have found that referring clients to cheaper vendors allways
leads to being asked to drop my rates and I never want a client
blaming me if I reccomend a provider that then craps out.
By all means be helpfull but don't set yourself up to be a bad guy