I had a long conversation with a client (now a former client) the other day, and I came away pretty angry.
I backed out of the project after I learned of the client’s intentions and realized that I would have to float in the proverbial grey area in order to do the work for this client.
As I told the client, and as I have said here numerous times before, even a whiff of any unscrupulous behavior might undermine a client’s best interests, my reputation and my license. The client didn’t particularly care about his best interests; he wanted the information, and from what I could tell, he wanted it pretty much at any cost.
But what really incensed me was that he couldn’t care less about my reputation or my license. Flabbergasted that I wouldn’t do anything that could harm my reputation and ultimately my license, the client replied, “But we aren’t doing anything illegal.”
Not exactly the kind of client I want on my roster.
“You signed an engagement letter and we paid you a retainer and you have to fulfill your end of the bargain,” the client told me. I am not a hired hitman. And I am not required to do whatever someone tells me. I nicely told him that the retainer engagement had been ripped up and the retainer check (which I had still not received) would be returned in full — despite the fact that I had spent most of my weekend on the project.
I had accepted the job, in part, because I was blinded by the fact that this would have been a massive project that could have lasted for months, a luxury that doesn’t come around that often in my business.
While I was angry at the client, I am most angry at myself for letting it get to this point.
I had been introduced to this client by a person I do a lot of work for, and based on my discussions with the person who referred the case, I assumed I knew the client’s intentions. It was not until the 11th hour, after pressing the client, that I ultimately got the information I should have learned days before, which turned everything upside down.
One of my mantras is “assume nothing, question everything.” Assumptions are the mothers of all evils. Many people’s assumptions sound like “the grass is greener on the other side,” “it will not happen to me,” or “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,”
In my business, it’s more like “they would never do that!” or “you are probably not going to find anything” or “they won’t talk to you.”
Proving that assumptions are wrong is part of what I do for a living.
But in this case, I didn’t follow my own advice.
And it cost me.