Doing the right thing

I enjoyed solving problems and helping people achieve great things. I got a lot of scope to achieve this in my role because our software was pretty awesome – but at the end of the day the measure of my success was how many licences I could help to sell. I wanted the measure of my success to be how well I solved the problem.

These were my words. I wrote them in a blog post last year where I introduced the world to DLM Consultants and our mission. Since articulating those words I have never doubted them. They are the reason I took a the leap and it’s been an enormously rewarding journey.

But there will always be times when your principles are put to the test.

Earlier this year DLM Consultants started to officially partner with both Redgate and Octopus Deploy. I wrote about what those partnerships involved here. I also wrote about what those partnerships did not involve.

I’m not looking at my partnerships as a new revenue stream. While there certainly will be some joint marketing opportunities, I have absolutely no interest in taking any cut in any licence sales.

And I believe that.

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of visiting a customer and conducting a DLM Health Check. You can read about it here. During that engagement we created various proof of concept (PoC) technical solutions using different technologies and the customer chose the one they liked best. This kicked off a procurement process for various licence sales. One of DLM Consultants partners, as a result, offered us a rather large sum of money.

I’ll admit, it would have been easy to pocket the cash. No-one would ever have known. I knew in my heart that I had provided the three solutions that I honestly felt were the most appropriate and the customer had made the decision which one they liked best – unanimously. Many other consultants have told me that I’m mad to turn down the money – but for me it does not feel appropriate to accept such kick-backs while at the same time claiming to deliver unbiased advice.

I was up front with the customer about the situation when I presented the three PoCs and I suggested that they nominate a charity.

That’s why DLM Consultants is donating $5,500 charity. They’ll be splitting it evenly between the Kentucky Association of Food Banks and Metro United Way. And we are enormously proud to be in a position to make donations such as this. In fact, Zac, the DLM Consultants guide dog, might be a little jealous.

Although, I’ll be honest, when I told my wife that I’d donated that much money to charity she did find it hard to forgive me.

Edit: 21st Dec 2017 – Enter taxman

Unfortunately, due to unexpected tax reasons that I have learned about since writing this post, the amount DLM Consultants has been able to donate is slightly less than expected. Here is why:

When UK companies donate to charity, they are usually allowed to do this before calculating their annual profits. This would mean that the commission that DLM Consultants received from its partner could be passed on in its entirety before tax was paid on it. This was what I wanted to do.

What I learned was that this only applies to donations to EU charities. This means that DLM Consultants will still have to pay 19% corporation tax on the whole commission, regardless of how much of it is donated.

With this in mind, we did some sums and held back enough money to pay our taxes. At first I was annoyed by this, but then I reminded myself that schools and hospitals are pretty good too. At least all the money will be going to good causes.


  7 comments for “Doing the right thing

  1. December 6, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Oh, man, I’ve struggled with that same thing. I really prize being able to tell clients, “We give you truly independent advice – independent from Microsoft and software vendors.” I used to take money from vendors as part of promotional webcast & video stuff, but I eventually decided to shut that off so we could be truly independent. I’m with you – it’s the right thing to do, but it’s hard when so many folks in our business are doing it.

    You’re one of the good guys! Glad you wrote the post, you should be proud of it.

  2. December 7, 2017 at 10:35 am

    It is unfortunate that so many others will fail to see the value in your approach Alex, you should be proud and continue to drive your company forward with such morals. You never know, some may even follow suit.

    Congratulations on delivering what the customer actually needs rather than what makes a quick buck.

  3. Allen White
    December 11, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Alex, I appreciate your approach, but I look at things differently. When I was consulting I also focused on getting my customers to choose the best solution for their problem, and over and over again the answer was simple and clear. So clear that I left consulting and joined that software vendor. Now, from the other side, I wouldn’t ask you to put my solution where it’s not the best fit for the customer. I do value, however, the ability to gain access to customers through you that I wouldn’t necessarily have without your help, and that has monetary value to me, so passing on that benefit to you means we’ve worked together to successfully solve your customer’s problem.

    • December 12, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      Allen – the problem with money changing hands is that it means less scrupulous folks will promote the highest paying solution and ignore other solutions. For example, I’ve heard from our own clients, “so-and-so told us that the only solution we should consider is Company X – and we noticed that they happen to be partners with that company. They didn’t seem to be open to anything that didn’t involve their partners, so we’re coming to you for a second opinion.”

      The age of outbound marketing and paid kickbacks/referrals is definitely still going strong, and will be for a decade or more, but if you look at what’s happening in the open source communities and inbound marketing, that paid strategy has a much tougher road ahead.

  4. December 11, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Wow, that made me feel a lot better, Alex. I was having a crappy day and just reading about your approach and integrity made a difference. Thank you, you are a rare gem!

  5. Rick Willemain
    December 12, 2017 at 3:36 am

    Really refreshing to hear of such personal integrity, and selfless generosity.
    As a personal reaction, I’ll offer you all 7 hours worth of any service I might be able to offer and deliver upon..
    Yet, since I am still a life-long-learner ( triple-L branded ) of t-sql and dba work, I’ll donate some honey bees in your honor …. Might be better reward that’s real.

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