Shams, Shells, and Charlatans

How many times have you been casually waiting at a restaurant or coffee shop for someone to arrive for a meeting only to suddenly recognize a former business associate? If it was a positive experience, you gladly meet, greet, and chat about the state of affairs.  If it is someone who was less than ethical, didn’t follow through on promises, or owes you money, the dynamic is completely different.

Do they avoid eye contact? Do you pursue contact?  Do you want to ignore them? Do you want to confront them with their misdeeds?

What happens when they brazenly walk up to talk and tell you how successful they are?

Recently I crossed paths (sort of) with someone who backed out of a joint event a year and a half ago without the courtesy of actually notifying the organizer of the event.  This person didn’t cover the shared costs accumulated to that point as agreed and as the lead presenter for the event left a gapping hole in the event program just weeks before the live event.  The even bigger issue – the person didn’t see anything wrong with this course of action – s/he simply decided to do something else.

I’m certain you have encountered people who roll through life leaving victims by the side of their road to success and  know what I’m talking about.  Some are simply “careless” and so self-focused that they don’t consider the impact.  Others don’t care about the impact.  Still others have it as an attitude or practice that they get what they can regardless of who is hurt.

Regardless of motive (or lack thereof) the mayhem they wreak on those they leave behind can be significant.  The financial, operational, and yes personal impact can be long lasting and far reaching.  For instance, in the case of the event, the organizer scrambled to change the program and ensure that participants still received their money’s worth.  There was little that could be done about the benefits the person reneging on the agreement got from the promotional activities.  (Indeed, while it is tempting to take out ads announcing the bad behavior, it is not a good idea!)

Unfortunately in the world we do business in, all of us at some point will be victim to varying degrees of people and/or organizations with less than stellar behavior and conduct.  Recognizing this fact of life means establishing ways to do business which minimize that risk.

Here are ten recommendations:

1.    Get referrals which are as objective as possible
2.    Check references provided  – qualifications, licensing, and other credentials
3.    Seek out additional references from information on website or other sources
4.    Investigate the person or company via sources such as the Better Business Bureau, Secretary of State’s Office, and internet research
5.    Start small – use the vendor for a small project or job – to test their ability
6.    Observe, when possible – be there when the work is done
7.    Get a written agreement or contract that spells out:
a.    Deliverables
b.    Specific responsibilities
c.    Timing
d.    Quality
e.    Guarantees
f.    Payment
g.    Redress options
h.    Means of contract termination
8.    Check to see if the person you talk to will actually be the one doing the work or if they are the “sales” person
9.    Speak up early and often if there is an issue
10.    Document the resolution of any issue in detail

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