Customers’ Ethics Give Leaders a Challenge

As business leaders, we focus on delivering value to our business customers. We take time to understand their challenges. We apply innovation and experience to move their corporations ahead. We do most of the giving in return for the business with fair trade in mind.

Leaders: Challenge With Customers' Ethics

It is win-win business to business (B2B) success until customers’ ethics give us business leaders a tough challenge. If you are a new business owner, young entrepreneur, or new leader, this post may help you ready yourself for this surprise:

How do you respond to a customer who asks to take and use your work further without any additional payment?

Most strategists and consultants will tell you to anticipate this during initial discussions and come to agreement before doing the work. Sound advice — when it works.

Here is a situation in my business where I am surprised by customers’ ethics despite my foresight and pre-sale discussions.

On the second day of delivering my training programs, customers ask the following:

  1. Our HR department is hearing good things about this training program and would like to observe so they can develop something similar and do it in-house.
  2. or

  3. Another consulting firm is here and one of their leaders would like to sit in on the training to develop something similar and use it for another area of our business.

These last minute requests are of questionable ethics. The customers are asking you to freely hand over use rights for the training program under the guise of developing something similar — and for no extra fees beyond what they are paying for just the delivery.

As awkward as this is, you still have the choice to say no and preserve the business relationship. Consider these positive replies that get you back to win-win and fair trade.

  • I would be happy to meet with them after this training to discuss what they want and the fees associated with it.


  • Sounds like a great business opportunity for me to work with the rest of your corporation. There are additional fees we must address before they can join in. Are they all available to meet after today’s program?


  • What you are asking for is beyond the agreement for this delivery. Let’s talk after the program with those involved in order to develop an appropriate fee quote.

You do not have to work for free or cave under last minute pressures to have good customer relationships. Preparation is valuable yet be ready to handle these last minute surprises!

Experienced business leaders: What other answers would you like to share with new business owners and young entrepreneurs?

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, is celebrating her 21st year in business developing and delivering people-skills training programs for excellence in customer service, customer relations, teamwork, and leading change. See this site for more information.

7 Responses to “Customers’ Ethics Give Leaders a Challenge”

  1. Jeff Toister says:

    Strange how so many people don’t treat intellectual property as property, isn’t it?

    • Dave says:

      I have found that very few people, including me, understand what that question is really asking. They think they are paying for presentation skills more than the content & it’s value. For some reason we think “entertainment” has intrinsic value, but not quality business content. Thanks for the reminder.

      • Kate Nasser says:

        Hi Dave,
        I appreciate your comment. I hope that over time more people realize that both have value both in the delivery and the content.

        Best wishes and thanks for your contribution to this discussion,

  2. Great points Kate. Another question is often, “Can we record your presentation for later use.” One strategy that works well is to have a simple line in your proposals and contracts which reads… “Content delivered in XYZ Company’s presentations are the intellectual property of XYZ Company and are provided on a per instance basis. For information on options for license for reuse, syndication or modification, please contact….

    • Kate Nasser says:

      As usual your business & CEO experience shines. Very generous of you to share these specifics with all my readers. So many new business owners, consultants, and freelancers feel stuck in these spots!

      And double congrats on your new CEO position of AZBIO – Arizona BioIndustry Association. Your experience will lead them forward.
      Warmest regards,

  3. Liz Weber says:

    Hi Kate – These situations happen all too often and from my experience, the client honestly doesn’t see or realize the ethical line they’re crossing. They don’t understand that “the things that we say” our our business. They just view what we do as “easy” and easy for them to copy and offer themselves. They also don’t realize the copyright infringements they’re veering towards when they want to “just run a few copies of your handouts” for others who want to hear this material too but can’t be hear today.”

    In my earlier days in business, I took their comments as flattery and usually answered with, “Oh sure go right ahead.” However, it only took learning that I was losing business because they were “stealing” my material – though unintentionally. Now I have no – & I repeat no problem – telling clients ‘NO’. They can’t make copies, share my information on their intra-net, or in any way use my material without my express approval. If they value what I’ve shared with them and want more of it, we have licensing agreements or other training programs we can discuss that will meet their needs and keep everything fair & legal.

    Great topic!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Exactly Liz. Thanks so much for sharing your story from “your early days” as it will spare others new to business ownership and consulting — years of learning.

      Always glad to see your contributions here.
      Best wishes,

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