DEAR PRESTON: IS MY REPUTATION ON THE LINE?

considering making a phone call

(Image via Retro Graphics)

Hi, Preston.

I am a huge fan of your advice and blog. So, I figure you are the one to go to with this problem. I have recently had a falling out with a planner who just bugs me to no end. Never mind the fact that I promoted her business a lot, always publicly complimented her work, and was a supportive friend for a few years. Completely positive relationship all the way around, or so I thought.

Well, recently, she told me she could no longer be friends with me and a few other vendors we have all worked with because we also provide services to another planner (her competition, of course), and she felt betrayed that we were “stolen” from her. Apparently, the competition stole text and ideas from the planner I’m referring to for her own website. However, I was under the impression that they had worked that out years ago, so I had completely forgotten about it. I have been the victim of photo thieves myself, and, trust me, I don’t tolerate it. Some of the other vendors that have been dumped as well all agree that it’s better off this way, as we really don’t need her referrals or business anyways. But we’re concerned that her personality in general may lead to her speaking negatively or outright telling untruths about our businesses. Talking smack basically to “get even” with us. And we do know she goes out of her way to refer other vendors of lesser quality and reputation to avoid working with us, which will catch up to her and her own reputation.

What’s your take on this? I’ve never experienced this, and it bugs me. Thank you for your time, Preston. I appreciate just being able to send this to you!

– Bugged Sharon

Dear Sharon,

I feel badly that you’re caught in the middle of this drama. However, there are always two sides to every story. You said this planner had been a friend of yours. But you’ve also been working with one of her competitors. So, as a friend, why didn’t you discuss this with your planner friend? Maybe give her a heads up and ask how she would feel if you started working with this other planner who may have stolen some of your friend’s ideas?

I don’t know all the details of what happened, but I can understand why your friend feels so hurt. You need to realize that planners have to be very territorial about their preferred vendors. These selective vendors are part of every planner’s act, so to speak. In order for planners to deliver the exceptional service they have promised their clients, they need to know that the vendors they use will not only do a great job but will also show certain amount of loyalty towards them. And a big part of loyalty is communication.

If you’re a vendor and you’re getting steady work from a planner, and then a competing planner tries to hire you, you owe it to the planner who you’ve already established a relationship with to let them know what’s going on. And to do so BEFORE you accept a job from that competing planner.

On the other hand, vendors are business owners, too, and you need to make money. I completely understand that. Over the years, I’ve became a bit more relaxed about using vendors that some of my colleagues also use. The only thing I ask is that my vendors sign a confidentially agreement.

My advice to you is to call your planner friend and attempt to talk it out. You might want to start by apologizing for hurting her feelings. Then, let her vent. Give her the opportunity to get her anger off her chest. Sometimes, a honest and straightforward conversation is all you need to diffuse a toxic situation. Never underestimate the value of reaching out, listening and talking together.

Good luck, Sharon. I hope you and your friend are able to work this out.

-PB

Readers, have you ever had a planner turn on you for working with one of her competitors? As a vendor, how do you handle the delicate situation of working with different planners? Do you think planners should only refer one vendor to their clients? Please share.

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