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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.


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#425: Don't Be So Quick to Sign a Non-Compete Agreement

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 29, 2010
Updated: Monday, November 1, 2010
I have a client that wants me to agree to a "non-compete" agreement that would prohibit me from working with any of their competitors for two years. Should I agree to these terms?

It's is important to carefully evaluate upfront not only the specifics of what is being asked of you (i.e., the details and rigidness of what is being agreed to), but how potentially important working for these competitors in the future is for you. Are you in a field where there are only a handful of potential clients and many of these are specified as competitors of the client in question? Or do your potential clients number in the thousands and the client simply doesn't want you to share what you've learned from working with them with anyone else. It is critical to gain a thorough understanding of what is being asked of you by signing.

Second, consider what is behind the request. Is this just a common business practice for the person asking you to sign, or does it reflect a lack of trust on their part about you? In either case, there may be a conversation you need to have beyond the subject of the non-compete agreement to resolve some outstanding issues.

Tip: In general, you might avoid having to sign a "non-compete" agreement in your area of expertise by simply stating to your client (only if true, obviously), "I've never been asked to sign one before". Or, "I certainly am willing to sign anything that is reasonable, let me check with my legal advisor. We may want to reword this to our mutual satisfaction."

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  ethics  goodwill  legal  reputation 

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#371: Consultants Are Not Lawyers

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 16, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I am often asked by clients to advise them on legal issues. They recognize I am not a lawyer but ask for my opinion as an experienced consultant. As long as we are clear that this is clear, is there any harm in giving them my opinion?

Is there any reason why a lawyer shouldn't render his or her opinion to your clients about financing, supply chain security, organizational design or trends in the trucking industry? We are hired as experts in our areas of specialty for our knowledge, independence and objectivity - not as general advisors in all areas or as pundits. Even if you are clear that you are not a lawyer, tread very carefully when discussing legal issues.

There are two reasons for this. First, your presence in the client organization is because you are seen as an expert. Regardless of how justified, your words carry the weight of an expert. Your "advice," even if qualified, is a powerful influence and induces decisions and actions by your client. Second, even with the best of intention, you are not qualified to advise outside your area of expertise. The IMC USA Code of Ethics says, "I will only accept assignments for which I possess the requisite experience and competence to perform and will only assign staff or engage colleagues with the knowledge and expertise needed to serve my clients effectively." This applies as much to comments and actions you take during the engagement as it does in decisions about whether to take the engagement itself.

Tip: Get to know some lawyers so you can refer your client to them for specific and expert advice. Do this before you need to so you can address the client's concerns immediately. This is part of good client service.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  ethics  legal 

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