Ethical or Unethical?

Posted by on February 1, 2010 at 11:15 pm.

I’m in a quandry.  I was hired by a group of doctors manufacturing a single-use, disposable gynecological product to build their brand and market their entry into this new market.  After four or five teleconferences, three or four proposal modifications, and the final go-ahead, I felt I was dealing with a group of honorable men.

Apparently not.  After one month into this one-year project, I billed them for the first month’s work and continued working.  Oh, by the way, I never work this way — billing in arrears.  As any consultant will tell you, you need advance payment to begin your project because work done as a service can’t be recalled for lack of payment.  But I softened on these guys — they have a good product. I know I could build their brand recognition and increase their sales using my strategies.  And after so many conversations, I also thought I was dealing with an honorable company.  Not to mention that I was working with my partner who was doing other work for them when he referred me to them.

Well, I billed mid-November 2009 and here it is the first of February and not a dime has come my way.  I have talked to them, emailed them and offered to accept payments. Nothing.

What is their reason for not paying?  Well, it seems a little false, but they said they didn’t see any results from my work after one month.  Anyone who know anything about SEO, ORM and the Internet knows that immediate results are a pipe dream especially for a start-up company with a relatively new product.  I was in the first month of a 12-month project building the foundation for the year.  Since sales were down from the month of October, they seemed to be looking for any excuse at all to simply not pay.

Two Courts

I have two options:  the Court of Law or the Court of Public Opinion.  Given the cost of a lawsuit, you can imagine that I am pondering the Court of Public Opinion. My dilemma is that it is my job to help my clients manage their online reputation.  I help repair a negative online reputation; I help build a non-existent online reputation (like this client); or I help pave the way for future problem solving by creating a strong online presence in a troublesome industry.

I am simply not interested in damaging anyone’s reputation online.

Likewise, TAO Consultants has been in business for more than 27 years, I am not used to being taken advantage of and my own reputation in my area of expertise is impeccable. I have earned my reputation with successful results for my clients. Ignoring this lack of payment puts me into a frame of reference I am simply not used to.

So let me ask for comments. What would you do? Let it go or go over to the dark side by going public with this client’s name and web address?

I leave it to you.

Chesa Keane

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