I find myself in a dilemma. The dilemma of whether to stay silent or speak-up; to interfere or keep-out; to try and prevent or allow mistakes to be made. There are different ways of looking at it. It’s always a difficult call to make in friendships, relationships and professionally. Do you follow the old adage of letting their fingers get singed in the fire or take preventative action?
The situation is this: I have a very wealthy client who I also regard as a friend. When I say ‘very wealthy’ I’m not being comparative I’m being categorical. This client inhabits the sphere of billionaires. And with such great wealth comes a dollar large dose of paranoia. There is a sense that everyone is trying to take advantage and I’m sure a lot of them are.
I’ve always been honest and have known this client gives some work to me and some to others – it used to bother me but doesn’t anymore. My old school friend, Fruity, who runs a successful antiques shop on Pimlico Green told me some years ago not to let professional life ever affect the personal. It was hard at first for the Big Daddy school of business is that everything is personal. He gets rather Old Testament in his eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth way of looking at things. I’ve worked hard not to. What I find more troubling is a lack of transparency. But I’m digressing.
The client in question is always buying or selling in London (and internationally) at any given time. I’m often asked my advice and happily give it. The promise of one or another property is occasionally wafted before me but never concretely promised, instead I’m normally asked who would be the best person to sell whatever the particular place in question is.
To that, rather challenging one for an English person brought up never to show-off, I answer (again) as honestly as I can. ‘It’s not rocket science what we do,’ I state. ‘It’s about being punctual, professional, responsive, being armed with all the information and knowing the right people to call. There are ten agencies or individuals who could do a great job, and we’re one of them.’ I say. I’ve said, in fact, a few times over the duration of our five-year relationship.
After our most recent meeting I gave my opinion as to the worth of the London property portfolio and who would be best positioned to sell them. I suggested that whoever was to sell them must be in control for if there were too many Kings offering them the properties would be burnt. I’ve seen it happen before when a supposedly off-market property is being offered by every Tom, Dick and Harry vaguely affiliated with the business.
It was to my surprise and amusement that lunching with a colleague the following week I learnt she’d been to see all of the properties with a beautician; one she shared with the daughter of my billionaire client. The beautician (no doubt expert as threading eyebrows) was presenting herself as the property agent for my client and giving guided tours to any chancer she could find. This was being done quite legitimately as my client had been spotted by my colleague at one of the properties.
And so now here’s my dilemma. Do I tell my client this is a ridiculous mistake and that by cutting the commission paid to the beautician they’re costing themselves the salability of their properties? Will it look like self-interest or sour grapes? Or will it come across as I intend that if not with me, it should at least be with someone who works in the business? I’m tempted to go with the easy option and keep quiet and see them lose out but my gut prevents it. I thought what would I want if the situation were reversed. I’d like someone to stand above the parapet and tell me the truth. It’s a bit like catching the partner of your best friend out with someone else. Do you tell or not? And again, if it were me, I’d like to know, so it’s time to practice what I preach. Oh lord.