This personal tale is true. I tell it as a lesson to other consultants and business people to make sure that you teach people how to treat you and to hold them accountable for how they act towards you, on purpose or not.

Back in January I was contacted by someone who had a great deal to work on a project together. He was going to contract with me to provide this service, health care related, something I do that not all that many independents to, that being charge master, which I’ve talked about before.

This is someone I’ve known for a very long time, more than 25 years. Therefore, I felt it was someone I could trust, someone who wouldn’t take advantage of me, someone who would treat me right, someone who would honor my contract. I decided to go ahead and start the work, knowing he wouldn’t take advantage of me.

Of course, I turned out to be wrong. He never signed my contract; he never even read it. I got expense money to visit the client, spent 2 days there for my research, and came back. I get a call a few days later from him complaining about a blog post that he never read. I read it to him, he said it was harmless, but asked that I never do it again. I told him to never call me on anything like that again unless he read the post first; he said he didn’t read blog posts.

Move to March. By March I had only been paid a very small amount, and I’d had to ask for it. I contacted him asking for a substantial part of the rest; after a debate he said he’d “loan” me the money; it was my money. The project should have been done at this point, I should have been totally paid for the entire event and been moving on with life. But when you’re not treated as a professional by someone who didn’t even read your contract, that apparently isn’t how it goes. By the way, when I broached the subject he said if he’d seen my contract he’d have never agreed to my terms; funny, but every other client has always agreed to those terms, which are quite fair.

Move into April. He didn’t contact me for a month after I got that one payment. I wrote asking when we’d finish this thing; he ignored it. I moved on, got other contracts and other work. He finally contacted me saying he was sorry, had other business, and now was ready to work on it. He then sent me his version of the draft report I’d given him, totally redacted; I refused to look at it. He said he’d rewrite it and then put it on his letterhead; that part was actually my recommendation because it was no longer my report. Did he mention money? Nope.

He sent me what he’d written, and there were multiple questions. I answered them all, realizing that he didn’t understand the report or, apparently, didn’t read it either, as half of the answers were there above his questions. He had other questions, which I answered, and said he wanted to talk to me at a certain time. I agreed to that time.

Of course he missed that time, holding me up. That’s the 4th time it’s happened, and it’s the last. Obviously I’m not seen as a professional; ain’t happening any more.

Based on every recommendation by every other consultant I’ve talked to about this, and it’s been many, he has acted in a totally unprofessional way. Let’s list them:

1. He didn’t sign my contract; heck, he didn’t read my contract. If he’d had any issues with it he should have discussed it with me before I started the work; didn’t happen.

2. He has never paid me without my asking for it. I had to ask for expense money and he gave me the smallest amount possible. I had to ask for a portion of my payment and he wrote me a tiny check. Six weeks later I had to get kind of mean, for me, to get half of what I was still owed; I didn’t get half, but it was close.

3. He has often not responded to my emails until weeks later. He’s told me he was going to contact me at certain times and missed them.

4. The one time I went to his house for us to work together he took the equivalent of 45 minutes to attend to personal business. Very unprofessional. Another time I went to his house to find he wasn’t there; he had an excuse, but hadn’t called me ahead of time to save me a 30 minute trip across the city.

5. When I gave him the draft report, he started reformatting it as if he wrote it. He then rewrote my report without having any clue what much of it meant. He then took my name off it, which, at that point, even though it was my recommendation, pretty much meant I wasn’t really a part of any of it anymore. I at least have kept answering some questions, but it’s over now.

I’ve skipped some things because quite frankly they’re not really worth mentioning. I’ve made every deadline; I did the job completely and accurately and tried to include him in on something that normally I’d never allow someone to see until I was presenting the information live. So, I offered a courtesy that will never happen again. How was I unprofessional? By doing the work before agreeing on the terms of payment.

See, there’s two things at hand here. The first is that the deal sounded good, it was the new year, I needed the cash and felt if I got the project done quickly life would be well. Instead, I was hurting and had to find another way around it, which luckily I did. Two, when someone else believes that you need their money that badly they treat you badly and try to take advantage of you. That’s happened to other friends of mine and other consultants; I’ll only take it to a certain point.

At this point I’m done. Since he says he doesn’t read blog posts he probably won’t see this, though it’s definitely in his best interest. As I said, I’m writing this as a lesson plan, not because I’m angry; I was angry before, but not now. Here are my terms, plain and simple.

1. I will not respond to any more emails or phone calls unless he reads this. No more answers; you wanted this to be all about you, so now it is on you as well.

2. I expect to be paid the rest of what I’m owed by the contract that wasn’t signed. The contract I sent is valid; I’ve checked with legal people. When I get the check for the money I’m owed I’ll contact you again.

3. The only way I go on another site visit is if I have all the money in the bank; that’s it. That part isn’t in the contract, so if I go, it’s by my good graces.

4. I’ve spoken to both my consultant friends and a lawyer; you can say the contract was never signed, but you can’t say the work wasn’t done, since I was on site & thus can prove I did the work. I’m on solid legal ground. How will that look for you? Frankly I don’t care. My ethics are sound. I’ve been professional throughout all of this; I will sleep well. Per my lawyer, you hired me as an agent of the facility, and thus the facility is as culpable for my payment as you are, especially since I had to sign their confidentiality notice.

Folks, this isn’t how business is supposed to be done. This is no way to treat someone who’s supposed to be in the same profession as you. This is no way to treat someone who saw you as a friend, someone that could be trusted. I often talk about consequences of actions on this blog; here’s a great example of that.

Whether you’re an independent or working for someone else, you deserve respect if you prove you can produce. If you don’t get it, get out, move on, or demand what you deserve. Or you can just keep taking it and feeling bad; I’m done.

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