my business ethics

One of the reasons I like freelancing so much is that I get to juggle and pick and choose opportunities. I get some perspective on the business I am in, and business in general, through constantly reevaluating different opportunities and how to coordinate them.

A company in which I am teaching a small group (3 students) has just asked me for a proposal for classes for the entire staff (70). Considering I am not interested in starting an English school, I said I would pass the request to the director of the school that placed me with them.

Without ulterior motive I started thinking, “Wait that school kind of sucks. I don’t really recommend it. They would be better off with one of the other ones that I work for.” As this occurred to me, I was in my class with my small group from that company. So naturally I thought it aloud, sharing my idea with the students as it dawned on me. They sort of looked at me like, “No comment.”

Nevertheless, when I got home that night I sent the Managing Director of the company an email asking if he wouldn’t mind if I passed his email address to two other schools, to give him a little more choice and to give the schools a little more price competition. Obviously he was all for it. So I sent off some emails to my other schools, inviting them to propose and sending them the Director’s email address. I also disclosed to each that they were not the only school I was putting the company in touch with.

At that point, while writing those emails, I realized the other schools would give me a commission if it turns out I win them a new client. And while my actions are not exactly favorable to any of the schools, the odds are definitely in my favor (ahem, 100% probably) that this company will choose a school that I work for. Hm.

I am not doubting that I did the right thing in this situation, may the best man win, but it looks kind of opportunistic, back-stabbing, and self-serving from certain points of view. Considering that I, and I only, definitely stand to gain. Well me and the students/clients.

Also, I am not sure this would have happened if that thought about the first school sucking hadn’t occurred to me.

I straight up asked my students if they had a problem with me going to my other schools, and they acknowledged that it makes them uncomfortable and that they probably wouldn’t have done that. Do they see something ethically questionable about what I have done? Or are they speaking from a cuate-ist perspective?

I guess it would be less questionable if there were other schools that I don’t work for involved. But that is kind of out of my hands. I’m not a matchmaker. Also, as far as I am concerned, I put them in touch with the best schools I know… oops, crap. There is one I forgot about that’s good whom I used to work for. The one that had me with Migración and Luz y Fuerza. I will send an email now.

I’m growing up. Hey, maybe soon I will finally stop throwing teen/gangsta rap slang into my code-switchig mix.

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2 responses to “my business ethics

  1. Wow, this is a really great question, and I’m not quite sure how to answer it. I think you are not under contract to sell the school’s services, just to be a service provider on behalf of the school, so that makes it OK to, when asked, give your most honest recommendation. And you went the extra mile by giving the school you were representing a chance to compete. Now, if it got back to the school that you recommended competitors in addition to them, they’d have every right to say they no longer required your services, but I don’t think they could accuse you of an ethical breach.

    Seeking a commission would be an interesting twist, but I think you’d have to pre-arrange it with anyone whose services you sold. And then you’d be an active saleswoman. Or maybe you could tell the manager of this company who will be selecting the school that he should mention to these schools that you were their reference, and then when a selection is made you can follow up and say, “Hey, look what I did for you guys! Maybe you could give me a little piece of the action.” But that doesn’t seem like that would work as well.

    • Well, actually all of the schools I recommended already have a policy in place to pass me a commission if I put them in touch with a new client. Aside from my natural tendency towards transparency (blabbermouth), I think this is kind of why I told them all they were competing against other schools. Disclosure of the fact that I was leveraging my own options– and I did say flat-out in my emails that I would want a bonus if they won. Really, though, my main reason for telling them they were in competition was so they would know what they’re up against. I even went so far as to name the other schools.

      It’s been interesting how they’ve handled it. One called me and asked for the contact details of the other schools, so that she could call and pretend to be a prospective client to find out about their prices. She also made it a point to tell me that she wouldn’t mention to the other schools that she knew me or that she was competing for the account… But really all of them have sort of shrugged it off. I think they all realize I could have recommended several and NOT told any of them about it. Or that I could have just recommended one instead of all three.

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