Conflicts of interest for agency focusing on projects (and not on monthly clients)

Rich Owings

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Apr 21, 2014
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I focus more on projects rather than monthly services. Some of my larger clients engage me for ongoing monthly projects, but some of those focus a lot on reporting and updated recommendations, and don't bring in that much ongoing revenue.

If I had a lot of monthly clients bringing in thousands per month, coming up with a conflict of interest policy would be fairly straightforward, but have any of you dealt with this on a project model?

We've got dozens of breweries in Asheville, and I'm starting to get somme traction with them, but this question is going to come up real soon (I'm talking to one brewery prospect today and another on Monday). Any suggestions?
 

Phil Rozek

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Jul 26, 2012
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@Rich Owings, if you mainly work on a one-time, per-project basis, I think you can keep it real simple: just make it clear to per-project clients that your conflict-of-interest policy consists of (1) your common sense, (2) your good nature, and (3) the assumption you might work with those people again longer-term. In other words, a pretty informal policy.

The alternatives are worse. Someone can "buy you out" by hiring you for a little work and expecting you never in your lifetime to work with anyone resembling a local competitor - according to his or her definitions. Or you have to get into the contractual weeds - like by defining words like "client" and "competitor" and "local." Not the best way to start off a relationship.

Until about 5 years ago I worked mostly on a per-project basis. Though I never had big problems, my conflict-of-interest policy wasn't very thought-out. Most of my work is for ongoing clients.

Keeping the ongoing clients from conflicting with one another isn't too tricky, and keeping the one-time clients from conflicting with one another also isn't tricky. Where I imagine it will get trickier is in keeping your ongoing clients from tangling with the one-time projects. Especially if most of your clients are local to you (i.e. in the Asheville area).
 
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Margaret Ornsby

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Jul 22, 2013
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Really appreciate the input from you @Phil Rozek .

I too have historically done one-time projects but finding a growing desire for ongoing monthly services. Maps spam may have something to do with that ;-)

I haven't found it difficult to juggle a perceived conflict of interest. If I have a monthly client in the same industry I check first the areas they service. Normally there isn't an overlap. If I do have an overlap of any kind, I let the new client know I'm already in that space with another business. I leave it to them to decide from there. Hasn't been a problem.
 

Phil Rozek

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Jul 26, 2012
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@Margaret Ornsby, yeah, it is good to offer both kinds of help (ongoing and one-time). I mostly do long-term work for people, but often the one-time arrangements lead into ongoing work.
 

Rich Owings

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Apr 21, 2014
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451
@Phil Rozek and @Margaret Ornsby thanks for the feedback. One thing I've been doing is offering exclusivity during the project contract period, with the option of extending it post-project with an ongoing services contract.

The brewery leads are going to make it interesting though. There are 41 breweries in the county, with more on their way.

I may end up saying I will only work for two concurrently. If they want to retain their exclusivity, they'll have to sign up for ongoing services. I'm not sure how to relay that without it sounding like extortion, but I can't take on a single project for a few thousand dollars and never work with anyone in that industry again.
 
Joined
Sep 8, 2016
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I don't think there is anything unethical about working for two competitors in the same industry and same local area. The breweries in your area probably use a lot of the same vendors for equipment, ingredients, offline marketing, etc. So, it's really a matter of your personal preference and how you want to handle clients and prospective clients that may perceive it as an issue. You could charge more for exclusivity or not offer it at all.
 

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