Why Would Consultants Belong to an Unethical Consulting Society?

Many years ago, I delivered a keynote for the Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI). I was a big hit, and we remained in infrequent contact. In late 2008, they approached me again and asked if I could keynote the November, 2009 conference.

They told me that I was beyond their usual budget, but that they knew I was worth the higher fee. In return, I promised to charge my 2008 keynote fee rather than the higher 2009 fee IF they confirmed and booked me before the end of 2008. On December 1 it was confirmed, in writing, that we had a deal and they were proceeding full speed ahead.

We had phone discussions, I prepared the catalog write-up, and they provided me with insights about their theme, the audience, and key learning objectives. I turned down another piece of work that would have overlapped.

In late December, somebody by the name of Stella Sytnik sends me an email which says, “I’m the new executive director, and we don’t need your services. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Their board chair seems unphased by this unethical and illegal behavior, I suppose since he brought in this new director who doesn’t care about the law or ethics. Those are great traits for an executive director, of course, especially in this economy. She should do really well. I can tell you this: She wouldn’t be cleaning my yard.

My only question would be this, to any and every consultant belonging to and paying dues to FCSI or considering FCSI: Why on earth would you want to be involved in a society with this kind of leadership? Do you really expect it can enhance your professional standing and your business results? If you do, then perhaps you’d support parole for Bernie Madoff….

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.


17 thoughts on “Why Would Consultants Belong to an Unethical Consulting Society?

  1. I had never heard of the FCSI until I read your article (so I visited their web site). The first thing I noticed was a typo on their “What Is A FCSI Consultant?” page. A little thing perhaps, but it is like a consultant who goes to a meeting with a stain on his shirt. It’s just sloppy and unprofessional.

    Sincerely, Jim Bradford

    P.S. I always start my day by visiting two web sites: Dilbert and Contrarian Consulting.

  2. Thank you for sharing this story. It is helpful for those of us not quite at the “million dollar” level to know that this can happen to those who are. I also think that sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking this is acceptable behavior. Some would argue that it was okay because you hadn’t done the speech yet. Of course, it absolutely ISN’T acceptable behavior. It cost you time and money, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

  3. It’s never acceptable, especially if it were handled better it would have been a non-issue. Imagine if their consultants were treated like that by their clients. And, of course, delivering the speech is neither here nor there. When you sign a contract to buy something, you can back out just because you haven’t used it yet.

  4. Hi Alan,

    I just read your post about the FSCI idiocy. You are right. I totally agree. Thus, I have sent John Radchenko, our FSCI International President, and John Cornyn, Chairman of FSCI – The Americas, an email requesting my membership be cancelled and explained to them exactly why. I doubt I will get a response. I too thank you for sharing the situation. Most of the time you never hear about a situation like this because people don’t have the courage to make sure other’s are aware it happened. I also love the new website layout!

  5. An executive director with that level of subpar knowledge about contract law and how ethical business is conducted? What a joke! To me, that is business basics 101 and she should be fired for incompetence and compromising the integrity of the organization.

    By the way, Alan, I had a similar experience with someone you allowed to interview you not too long ago. It really saddened me that he turned out to be just another Internet sleazeball without any honor in his business dealings.

  6. As I mentioned, my lawyer says we have a good case, but the expense of suing vs. the reward is not logical for me. So they can break a contract with impunity, knowing that it’s too expensive to try to collect from them. Great new executive director, huh? And outstanding choice by the board.

  7. Hi Alan,
    A very similar situation happened to me this weekend. Worse, I learned about the cancellation not from the association but from a member who had agreed to do the engagement for free!
    Since I haven’t heard from the association I am going to send them my invoice today (event is April 8) with the notation detailing my 50% cancellation fee. I’ll keep you posted.

  8. Surprise, received today, January 29:

    Name:
    Wade Koehler, CAE

    Email:
    wade@fcsi.org

    Subject:
    I read your posting

    Message:
    Alan,

    I stumbled across your blog today and saw the item about FCSI. I have
    to tell you that things with that leadership didn’t go well at all. In
    fact, my management company took over that association in 2010 after
    they had bankrupted the Society. I am proud to say that since then we
    have become an association that most people would be happy to belong
    to since then and run things more efficiently and ethically. I would
    like to apologize for my client’s former management company and
    acknowledge you were correct to be angry about the completely
    unethical behavior.

    Cheers!
    Wade

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