The Balloon Council
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 22:29:03 -0500 (EST)
From: Larry Moss <moss@balloonhq.com>
To: Balloon Decorator List <balloondeco@balloonhq.com>
Subject: Re: A Question of Ethics

On Sat, 15 Jan 2000 Twistinsb@aol.com wrote:

> The question is - when do you draw the line between "stealing" someone
> else's client and ... well, being a good sales person for your company -
> going after a great job??

That is indeed a tough question.  I think a lot of it has to do with how
your introduction to a potential client came about.  As you said, you
weren't looking for it.  It came to you.  You also indicated that you don't
know anything about what kind of money was spent before, so if you do
decide to bid on the job no one can accuse you of trying to undercut your
competition.  Even if your price is lower, they still may chose to stick
with the decorator they've used in the past.  If they do it year after
year, they can obvisouly afford it at whatever price it's costing them, and
they may prefer to stick with someone they've gotten to know as reliable.

My first thought is that since this other decorator is someone you've
worked with, you're probably on good terms.  If I were in your position, my
first move would probably be to call him/her and discuss the situation.
Obviously no one wants to lose a big job, but your competitor might
understand that you've been invited to bid by the company and agree that
it's only fair that you get a chance to do that.  Or, you may be asked to
back down, and in the name of keeping peace it might be best for you to
accept that and walk away.  In other words, everyone here may have an
opinion (and I think it's a great thing to discuss here) but when it comes
down to it, you may find an answer you're happier with by having this
discussion directly with the person it involves.  There may be another
solution to this that doesn't involve just the two choices of bidding or
not bidding on the job.  For example, you may choose to work together on
it.  Each of you can submit a bid, but the winner can certainly hire the
other to work on the job as you've done in the past.

Anyway, having said that, and having had that sort of discussion with
competitors on several occassions, I will offer my opinion.  I don't know
if my opinion is worth anything, but you asked. :-)

As a general rule, if I'm hired to do a job by someone else (agent, another
balloon business, etc) to do a particular job, I will never bid on that
same job in the future.  Any work I do for that company will be booked
through the person that was responsible for hiring me (the agent or balloon
company).  However, there are exceptions.  Your case *may* be one of them.
With only one email message, it's hard to know all of the details.  Here's
my interpretation of what you've said.

As I see it, the person that invited you to bid did so based solely on your
work.  This was someone that was not aware you had ever worked (indirectly)
for his company before.  You didn't approach him or anyone at the company
that had been involved in past years with decorating for this event.
What's the difference between this and a random new customer that walks
into your store and asks to buy something?

If you had gone to them, knowing this job existed and having only become
aware of it because your services had been subcontracted, I think you would
be behaving unethically.  If someone at this company approached you,
knowing about you only because you were involved as a crew member on a job,
I think they would be behaving unethically and you should decline.  Neither
of those are what happened.  You were approached by someone that liked your
work and that was trying to do the right thing for his company.  You're
trying to do the right thing for yourself and follow up on a call.  I don't
see anything wrong.  Still, if the competitor is a friend (or at least a
friendly acquaintance) I'd be inclined to call and discuss it with him
first.  But I don't see that you're crossing any ethical boundaries by
promoting you business in this way.

Did thatmake sense or is it just coming across as late night babbling?

Larry Moss
Balloon HQ