I’ve Heard This Song Before

An outfit called FreshBooks has put out an ebook that resulted in two dozen emails to me over the past two weeks, all on the same subject. The kinder interpretation was “these guys really learned from you,” and the unkinder was, “these guys are using your stuff.”

I downloaded a copy of the free book, speed read it, and immediately found about ten instances where the concepts, examples, or words themselves were mine, on the topic of value based fees, which I began writing about in 1992 and have never stopped. The concepts are in 20 of my books, most notably Million Dollar Consulting, and Value Based Fees.

I wrote to the authors and suggested that if they put something in a footnote, index, acknowledgment, introduction, preface—anywhere—that they recognize my work as a source or inspiration for at least some of their ideas and writing, well, that would be gracious and we could all go on with our lives. The author responding to the email told me he’d get back to me.

When he did, he actually wrote (he couldn’t have done this in person with a straight face) that he and his partner never read any of  my work, never heard me speak in person or recorded, never Googled “value based fees” when they decided to write on the topic, and never read any other books on the subject at all. He claims the ideas just “came to them” and “his father talked about it.”

There’s all too much of this stuff that goes on and it’s more pathetic than it is threatening or vexing. I place my ideas in the public forum through books, articles, video, audio, and speeches. I expect the ideas to be applied. But I also expect the decency, ethics, and maturity to provide attribution when you otherwise seem to present the ideas and words as your own.

Perhaps I should write more on ethical behavior. I did write a booklet on the subject once, “Doing Well By Doing Right.” It was the worst selling booklet of the series of five I created.

But be apprised: FreshBooks is anything but Fresh Air.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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10 Responses to I’ve Heard This Song Before

  1. Joshua Snyder says:

    Just read the eBook mentioned. I didn’t realize you spelled your name “Karen” in some instances. Perhaps that’s a new brand you hadn’t told us about, Contarian, Summit, Karen, you know, whatever works.

  2. Hi Alan,
    I’m happy to tell you that I searched you out based upon the ideas I learned in the FreshBook ebook. I was delighted to discover you and until you mentioned it, never thought to see if they referenced you at all.

    That said, they do offer a great software product, and I’m eager to learn more from you and to implement your “values based fees” ideas to make my books look fresher than ever.

    After reading more of your work here today, I’m grateful FreshBooks inadvertently pointed me your way.

    I feel like your words and ideas resonate with me at a core level and am grateful for discovering your ideas too.

  3. Craig Martin says:

    Only an insecure coward would come up with such an excuse, it really is pathetic. They clearly don’t understand that most of the progress in this world comes from standing on the shoulders of giants, and that the vast majority of movers, shakers and personal heroes are only to happy to direct you to their own sources of inspiration.
    Obsessed with being the genius, but looking like the fool.

  4. Alan Weiss says:

    Thanks for our comments, and the serendipity of chance meetings!

  5. Economist James says:

    Value-based pricing is taught in every freshman economics class. It has been a core principle of economics since the 19th century, when economists realised that the “labour theory of value” was wrong.

    • Alan Weiss says:

      Yes, but it isn’t taught as a method for consultants to use as a key part of their business with my copyrighted material and trademarked models. The fact that a concept exists and has been discussed is hardly an excuse for someone to take your proprietary material and use it as their own, or isn’t that, too, an economic principle?

  6. James Wilko says:

    You guys beat me to it.

    Recently read the free ebook from Fresh Books. It seems like
    a total rip off of your work!

    Mainly the stuff relating to value based fees.

    They even have Tim Ferris promoting it!

    • Alan Weiss says:

      It is a rip-off, and I gave them the opportunity to graciously merely acknowledge my work as a part of their foundation, but they actually told me they independently arrived at my own examples and wording. If you take an infinite number of monkeys and place them at an infinite number of keyboards for an infinite amount of time, it is said they will write all the great books.

      So perhaps we have two monkeys here.

  7. Paul says:

    It’s always amazing when someone rips off the originator of concepts and language – then claims it “just came to them.”

    • Alan Weiss says:

      It just came to them after they read it or heard it elsewhere. There’s a big-shot professional speaker who wrote a complete book based on someone else’s work, and uses quotes on his site that he claims are his even though they are clearly well-known quotes of Damon Runyon and other outstanding writers.

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