Consulting For Dummies
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Consultants face ethical dilemmas every day of the week, and as a consultant, you may be tempted to stray to the wrong side of that ethical line. But remember that you have a choice: You can do business the ethical way or the unethical way. It's that simple.

If you choose to do business the ethical way, not only will you sleep better at night, but your reputation will be enhanced and your clients will be glad that they have one less thing to worry about.

You never know who will plant an ethical land mine in your path or when it'll make its presence known. Be on the alert for the following kinds of ethical land mines:

  • Conflicts of interest: A conflict of interest occurs when your personal interests or the interests of your business conflict with those of your client. An example is a government consultant who recommends that a client buy an expensive new fire-suppression system from one particular company without seeking competitive bids; unbeknownst to the client, however, the consultant is getting a kickback from the fire-suppression system manufacturer for each unit that clients buy.
  • Personal relationships: When professional relationships between consultants and clients cross the line into the realm of personal relationships — particularly intimate personal relationships — ethical quicksand can't be very far away.
  • Ability to do the job: Are you really qualified to do the work that your client is hiring you to do? Do you already have far too many jobs lined up to be able to adequately handle new ones? Are you going to have to subcontract the work to another consultant or firm because you're too busy to do the work yourself? Your clients hire you because they assume — either through you telling them so or through your silence — that you are able to do the work. If, in reality, you can't, you'll soon find yourself in a major ethical quandary. You and your clients should agree to any subcontracting of work before you commence work.
  • Insider information: As a consultant, you discover a lot of interesting and confidential things about your clients' operations, business plans, and strategies. Misusing this information is a serious breach of ethics. If, for example, you provide information gained from working with Company A to Company A's arch rival, Company B, as a part of the work that you do for Company B, you're committing a serious ethical infraction against Company A.
  • Fees and timekeeping: Are your fees reasonable? Do you keep meticulous track of the time that you work for your clients? Do you have controls to ensure that one client isn't charged for another client's work and that clients aren't billed for work that is never done (such as while you're out of town meeting with other clients or working on another client's project when you should have been working on a project for the client you just billed)? Ethical land mines abound in this dangerous area of your practice.

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About the book authors:

Bob Nelson (San Diego, CA) is founder and president of Nelson Motivation, Inc., a management training and consulting firm based in San Diego, California. As a practicing manager and a best-selling author, he is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of employee recognition, rewards, motivation, morale, retention, productivity, and management. He is author of the bestselling book 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (Workman) — which has sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide — and coauthor of the best-selling book Managing For Dummies, 2nd Edition, with Peter Economy (Wiley), as well as 18 other books on management and motivation.
Bob has been featured extensively in the media, including television appearances on CNN, CNBC, PBS, and MSNBC; radio appearances on NPR, USA Radio Network and the Business News Network; and print appearances in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and many more. He writes a weekly column for American City Business Journals and a monthly column for Corporate Meetings & Incentives, among others.
Dr. Nelson received his PhD in management from The Peter F. Drucker Graduate Management Center of Claremont Graduate University in suburban Los Angeles, and received his MBA in organizational behavior from The University of California at Berkeley. For more information on products and services offered by Nelson Motivation, Inc. — including speaking or consulting services — call 800-575-5521. Visit Bob at his Web site:

Peter Economy (La Jolla, CA) is a freelance business writer and publishing consultant who is associate editor of the Apex award-winning magazine Leader to Leader, and coauthor of the best-selling book Managing For Dummies, 2nd Edition, with Bob Nelson (Wiley), Giving Back with Bert Berkley (Wiley), The SAIC Solution with J. Robert Beyster (Wiley), as well as the author or coauthor of more than 30 other books on a wide variety of business and other topics. Visit Peter at his Web site: and be sure to check out his Free Book Project at:

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