Why You Don’t Chase Every Rabbit

Recently, I had a great discussion with a couple of business acquaintances about business ethics, specifically, on the subject of poaching clients from rivals.

It was the consensus of the group that picking up a client who’s dumped their last contractor can be dangerous, unless a client has clear material reasons for abandoning a company they previously contracted.

After all, a client who walks away from a project to work with you is just as likely to walk away from you.

In the context of that conversation I told a funny story, and I decided to share it here on rAVe.

Many, many years ago the company I worked for took on a large residential project. The client is well known locally not only for being a business magnate, but also for driving a really hard bargain

Also, the client is well known for throwing around lawsuits at the slightest provocation.

As a result, we were reluctant to take on the job (and by the same token, I’m obscuring some details to avoid getting sued), but at the time felt that it was worth our while.

It didn’t take long for the business relationship to go bad.

The client repeatedly asked for extras and “favours” that were well outside the scope of the original contract. Not being stupid, we always responded with a quotation and a reminder that they would require a signed change order, and payment for the extras.

Of course, this wasn’t the client’s expectation: they were expecting these changes for free.

As a result, the client shopped around, and found a hungry young AV company that jumped at the chance to do business with them.

They were star-struck and eager to add a “big name” to their client roster.

The client dumped us immediately after the prewire, walking away from their deposit.

That’s not entirely true. They asked for a pro-rated portion of their deposit back.

We said no.

Believe it or not we decided this was a blessing, given what a hassle the client had been, and moved on.

Three years passed.

The poaching dealer finished their project, and the client refused to pay.

They had to go to court, and in order to bolster their case they approached us separately (I had left the company by then) and asked us to testify on their behalf as to why our relationship with the client ended, conveniently forgetting their own role in that.

I declined to participate.

My former employer also declined.

We called each other up, and we laughed. We laughed a lot.

The poachers went out of business not long after, by the way.

This is why you can’t chase every rabbit: some of them don’t taste very good.

It’s also why you should resist the temptation to poach someone else’s rabbit:

You might choke on it.