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Serving Two Masters


The situation:

A fellow consultant (not a CMC) asked me to assist with some Internet-based research for one of his clients. Although he and another contractor were responsible for the majority of the assignment, the consultant invited me to accompany them on the kick-off meeting with the client.

During the course of this meeting, the client asked if the report could also be submitted on disk in a database format (this was a customer satisfaction type of study). The consultant said "no, we will provide the information and analysis as a paper-based report." No question of expanding the scope of work (and therefore billings); just "no can do."

I was flabbergasted. He and I teamed on a previous assignment, where he was likewise lead consultant, and I had done exactly what the current client requested! About 200 phone interviews, 150 quantitative and narrative data points placed in a 6-table, query-able relational database.

Because it was not my client, I kept quiet during the meeting. As we walked to his car I reminded him that we did indeed have the capability, that clients are demanding files electronically nowadays, and that it would increase the fees by about 30%.

Nope. He just wouldn't do it.

Now, I felt bad for the client because he wasn't being well served. But there wasn't a thing I could do about it. The client was not mine, which the consultant made abundantly clear. Of course, I would never approach someone else's client, not even through the back door.

Although we had worked well together for several years on a half dozen assignments, this was no longer a good relationship. My peripheral responsibilities in this project was completed anyway, so I quickly returned all the client materials to the consultant and closed the book.

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