As a leader in a split fee network, I hear a common concern from members sharing job details. They are concerned that trading partners could go after their client relationships. Of course, in our network we have specific rules against that. Rogue partners who would take advantage of the information they gain from a partner would be putting their livelihood at risk for short-term gain. They would be expelled and gain a reputation that would be hard to shake. The upside is not worth the penalty.
For those not in a split network, it might become necessary to share client information with partners on rare occasions. So, what can you do to protect yourself? Here are a few options for any good recruiter to consider before sharing client details.
- Firm up your client relationships first. Make sure you have an agreement or letter of intent on file with your client. That letter should list the assignment you have been asked to fill and specify the fees and any other specific details of the project. A timeline and date of expiration would make things even more specific. This note can be in the form of a signed document or a confirming email where you ask your contact to confirm your understanding.
- Inform your client. Let your client know that you are putting a partner company in contact with them to do whatever specific things they may need to do in order to best locate talent on your client’s behalf. Let the client know you will be sharing your fee or paying that partner for time invested. Let them know that your intentions are to use them as a tool to better perform for this project but have an agreement in place that would prevent that company from working directly for your client. This serves as a war
- ning to prevent accidental solicitation by your client.
- Gain agreement from your partner. Have your partner sign a non-solicitation agreement for client companies you place them in contact with. Nothing fancy, just that they will not solicit or accept business from companies you have introduced them to in the course of being a supplier to your business.
- Be aware and be realistic. If you are not performing for your client or your client has multiple firms working the same opening, you are in danger of the client asking your partner to engage on current or future projects. Tune in. If that is the case, maybe you want to work these projects solo without the support of partners that could become competitors.
- Be open and honest. Ask your partner to tell you if they are approached by the client. Ask your client to tell you if they are approached by your partner. Knowing what is being asked will help you address underlying issues and head off catastrophe before it happens.
If you have healthy client relationships, the worries should be relatively rare. Do good work, communicate openly, and pay partners fairly and worries will be even more rare!