Behind-The-Scenes: When a Big Company Steals Your Ideas



Dear Readers:

I have just received an interesting note from a reader that I felt deserved a detailed response.  In the vein of not addressing any of this reader’s points, I have decided to respond piece-by-piece. Please see the email below and my comments emboldened and italicized.

Dear Preston:

I am writing today seeing advice as I have considered you a brilliant mentor for many years. This [past] April, I was approached by a very large company to decorate an annual party. When I arrived at the site visit I learned they had also asked two other decor firms to attend(none of us knew the others would be there).

This is so very disrespectful. Only a very rude company would do something like this.  They could have easily scheduled each vendor to  come an hour apart.   Obviously, this company did not care about the feelings of each artist.

We were given a theme and a layout of the grounds and asked to come up with a design proposal for the event. We were told that a designer would be selected based on those proposals.

At the very least, all of you should have been informed of this before you arrived to the meeting. I find this so unnerving. As much as we all love to get great jobs, it is time that we stop allowing companies to pit us against one another. If they are going to pit us, we should get paid for our time.

Naturally, I poured a lot of time into creating my proposal. I studied the theme, researched the various vendors I would need to bring on to complete the work, etc. I spent far more time on this proposal than I normally do because I really wanted the project. It would be a great high-profile event for my small business portfolio.The deadline came and went and I didn’t hear back from this big company. When I called to follow- up I was told that the process would be starting over in a few days and I was welcome to submit a bid at that time.

Again, this is very careless of this company. They were very disrespectful of your time and efforts.  I am not liking this one bit.

A few days later I followed the link to the RFQ and found that this company had formed a clear “Scope of Work” using only ideas (descriptions, measurements, quantities, etc) found in my proposal. I was shocked.My husband was even more upset than I was. He’d seen all of the late nights I’d put into the proposal. He insisted that I flood social media, go to the papers, write a blog, write a long nasty letter to the thieving company demanding that I be reimbursed for my ideas.

In other words, this company stole from you. Your husband is right to be pissed!  I am always hesitant to give my designs without being paid for this reason alone. Small fish, from what you are telling me, I, too, am furious with this company.

I opted to do nothing. I thought it would be better to chalk this up to a valuable learning experience and move on.But as the days went by I became more and more convinced that I should say something. If I let my little business be a victim of this great big company without a word of protest was I not just perpetuating the issue? Wasn’t I simply telling the world that my ideas, my creativity, my time had no value?

Feeling like a victim is one of the worst feelings in the world.  I am so, so sorry; I really do feel for you on this.

So, I took to Facebook and shared the story with my friends. Most were supportive and insisted that I pursue compensation of some sort. But one private message caught me off-guard. A friend and wise business woman acknowledged the wrong-doing but also insisted that business issues should remain private and should not be blasted out on social media.

I disagree. I feel that one of the best things about social media is that we all have the right to leave comments for the world to read.  From what you have told me, this company truly sucks. Pardon my language, but I feel enraged by the way you were treated. No company, especially a large and established one should take advantage like this. As a business owner, I also appreciate the value of social media.  If someone on my staff did this, I would want to know and address it immediately.

I’m not normally one to vent my frustrations out to the world, but in this case I felt it was necessary. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Should I have kept quiet and moved on? This certainly was a valuable learning experience. I’m now in a greater position to handle these types of requests in the future – I certainly won’t be taken advantage of in this way the next time around.

Small fish, let me assure you that I feel you did the right thing.  Not only did this big company take advantage of you, but they stole your power in a way. Blasting it on social media was a great way to use your voice and take some of it back. My only regret is that you did not list the name of the company in your letter so that I could include it on the blog.    I would like to know who this company was for my own purposes.



Dear Readers:  Has this ever happened to you? What is your opinion on the topic? I am so angry as no one should ever feel used and abused in this way.