Our group has certain guiding principles when it comes to the way we do business. For example, since Mr. Wenger founded the company back the 1980's we have refused to work with directly competing companies. The principle comes from an old teaching:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
We have never felt that it was right for us to say to one client "We are committed to your success and want you to be the best," then walk down the street to a competitor and say "We are committed to your success and want you to be the best."
So, if there is some question about conflict of interest, we go to our current client and ask them. They are our client. We are committed to their success. If they feel that a potential new client is a competitor, then we respectfully decline the business. If our current client doesn't see it as a conflict and doesn't care, then we will continue to pursue the potential project.
Of course, principles are easy to live by when times are good and it seems like there's plenty of work to go around. But, in the worst economy since the Great Depression, when revenues are fraction of what they were last year and new clients are as rare as a Chicago Cubs winning streak, it can certainly test your mettle. When a company comes looking for a project that could turn into a lucrative, long-term relationship – those pie-in-the-sky principles get put to the test. They have. They will.
In those moments I simply let my mind consider current client relationships that span five, ten, 15, and almost 20 years. I start calculating the time-value proposition of long term loyal clients, and the incalculable worth of the relationships they represent. It helps put a quick buck in perspective, even in the present economy.
Worthwhile principles prove their worth over the long haul.