Thursday, April 04, 2013

Taking ownership vs. being a butt-in-ski

I have long counseled younger colleagues to approach each job as if they are the owners of the business. Act like you own the place, I'd tell them. That doesn't mean that anything in the corporate checkbook is yours to plunder; rather, it means consider the success of the business to be your own as well and work to achieve that end. Make the business look good, and look good in the process.

Later, I would give that advice to my own kids.

Of course, it is much easier to give advice than to follow it, as I am reminded now as I face a situation here at the Undisclosed Location with a new client.

The new client is an insurer with a multistate presence, just beginning to expand into Chicago. Getting business as the insurer begins to expand into this market carries with it the tantalizing hope that my own business will expand as the insurer's presence here grows.

But the insurer also arrives here with some preconceived notions and with a list of 'national' policies and, more important for purposes of this discussion, national vendors already in place.

In other words, when you need things -- medical records, court reporters, stuff like that -- you have to use the companies that the insurer has approved.

And that's fine.

When you make a recommendation or a referral, it's your own reputation you put on the line. That's true not just in business. Over 25 years ago I dropped a doctor who made what I considered a terrible specialist referral. It was terrible for me, anyway. And it got me questioning the judgment of the referring doctor. So I didn't go back to him. Eventually, I got a new doctor.

Thus, when a client comes in and says 'use our guys,' I'm only too happy to comply. If their guy screws up, sure, I'll pay the penalty with the court, perhaps, and my ability to achieve the best outcome in the case may be compromised, but I won't have lost face with the client.

On the other hand... and I'm being vague here on purpose, as I'm sure you understand... I just got some stuff from a 'national' provider for this new client and the cost struck me as outrageously high. I'm sure I can beat it locally. I will be reimbursed, eventually, for these costs -- but (if I follow my own well-meant advice) I should tell the client that their guy is way overpriced and, at least in this market, we can do lots better.

But... and here's how following good advice can get you bad results... how do I know that the person who owns the overpriced business in question isn't the in-law, spouse, or BFF of some key decision-maker at the insurance company?

Obviously, I don't know.

Thus, I have to tread carefully here. Helping the client save money is not just the right thing to do, it's generally a good way to ingratiate oneself with the client. Win-win. Attacking the in-law, spouse, or BFF of one of the client's key decision-makers is a sure way to lose-lose the business. I shall have to be cautious (which, since I am a natural-born coward, is easy for me) and I shall have to be diplomatic (and there, ladies and gentlemen, we have identified the problem).

It's one thing to act like you own someone else's business -- but it's harder when you have your own to think about, too.

1 comment:

Smalltown RN said...

I'll be checking in to see how things are going with your new client...your situation certainly gives me food for thought.