Lynne Curry: Laptop deal would put money in manager's own pocket

Lynne Curry

Q. When our operations manager let me know he'd found three laptops we could purchase for $500 each, it seemed like a good deal. I didn't do my own research to learn whether $500 was a good or normal price because I don't micro-manage and trusted our operations manager to act in our company's best interest.

I said I appreciated him searching out this purchase. When I asked why he thought we should buy three laptops when only two of our current employees needed new laptops, he told me he thought we should have one in reserve if we added an employee.

I told him we only needed two and asked him to draw up a check to pay the vendor. He told me we could arrange the deal through PayPal and I said I'd rather write a check. That's when I learned he was selling us the laptops himself, that he'd purchased all three off Ebay for $300 each based on a three-computer package deal.

I then said I would have expected him to have told me he was personally selling the machines and he defensively said he deserved $200 per machine for his personal efforts.

What are your thoughts?

A. Your operations manager provided your company with a potentially good deal. When he did so, he decided he'd make some money on the side for himself.

You clearly expected him, as an exempt employee, to give your company first crack at the Ebay transaction. Your employee investigated Ebay on his own time and saw the deal as his personal business and your company as a lucky client.

His primary mistake: He didn't come clean with you from the start, giving you the sense he wouldn't have told you about the $200 premium if you hadn't needed to write the check. Because he didn't and urged you to take more laptops than you felt were needed, he eroded your trust.

Can you trust him? Yes -- to be him but not to be transparent.

Q. Our company recently hired a high-powered consultant to help us grow our business. He was particularly insistent we fire our clients because they were taking too much time and energy.

This recommendation shocked us.

My partner and I are sharply divided concerning whether or not to accept it. My partner says since we paid for the advice, we should take it.

I'm not so sure. I could tell this consultant secretly thinks we're one of those "small potatoes" clients he'd fire. He gave us a hard sell on a year-long financial consulting package and my partner and I told him we honestly don't have the money to "invest money in our future" with this follow-up package.

What do you think?

A. Once a consultant gives you advice, you own it. Since you've already paid the consultant, don't pay twice -- by taking poor advice.

That said, evaluate his advice against the positive and negative consequences.

Some clients cost a company more in time and frustration than they're worth on a company's bottom line. Companies that keep them suffer opportunity cost and employee frustration. What could your staff do with the time they now expend on those "expensive" clients? Do these clients steal employee job satisfaction by being difficult?

Before you fire any small client, remember that clients have long memories. Small-potato clients grow into larger ones that don't seek out vendors who "dump" them.

At the same time, there's truth in what your consultant told you. Companies that focus on easy-to-work-with clients that truly benefit from their services succeed and grow. My suggestion -- find a few more of those.

Finally, when a consultant gives you an expensive hard sell and gives your company the feeling you're not worth his time, just say "no."

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at You can follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or through

Lynne Curry