Let's say that I own an Agency.
I have two clients who need one girl each to work a Trade Show. I hire Mary for one booth and Susan for the other.
Both girls are fantastic and get rave reviews for their work. Both girls are approached by other, separate, Booth Managers on the Show Floor and asked if they are available for their own upcoming shows.
Mary takes the business card of the respective Booth Manager, and hands her one for my Agency, with her name written on the back.
Susan also takes a business card, but instead of handing her one of mine, she gives her one of her own and says she would like to work direct.
Susan has just violated her contract with my Agency...more on that later.
Mary scans the business card and emails the lead to me. I follow up with the client, and find that they do several shows a year, but only one in Mary's location. Because of my Agency's generous commission for lead referrals, I book those shows in different locations, giving Mary First Right of Refusal to work the shows if she is available, along with a cash bonus for her referral.
Mary is now in excellent standing with my Agency and is at the top of my list for any upcoming shows. As she continues to work together with my Agency and our clients, including those she has brought in on her own, I begin to push our clients to have her flight and hotel covered for their other shows across the country, as she has proven herself to be a loyal asset to all of us. Mary is now working regularly, making thousands of dollars a month.
Susan pursues her lead on her own. She secures a show and works it. Because Susan has many friends in the Trade Show Industry, she talks about how she got this position and it gets back to me. I then take her to court to recover my financial losses, as is written in the contract that she originally signed.
But it doesn't stop there.
For some reason, Susan is having problems getting paid from her client. Because she doesn't have a legal contract from my Agency to protect her, even if she has drafted one of her own, she now must take the client to court--while at the same time she is in court with me--to collect her payment. The costs associated with these legal actions are more than what Susan would have made at the show if she had passed the lead to me. Actually, she made "negative money" by the time her attorneys take their fees. And while she is in court, she isn't working shows, so she is losing even more money.
If you think it stops there, I'm afraid I have more bad news for Susan.
I know just as many people in the Industry as Susan, and have a close relationship with many other Agency Owners. I contact those owners and tell them the whole story, and now they don't want to hire her either as she is a risk to their profits too.
It's a year later, the same show is in town, and my original two clients are hiring. I book Mary again for her original position. My other client asks if Susan is available and I say no. Instead, I staff someone else who has proven trust and loyalty to me. Both clients are happy, and the show goes on.
Susan cannot find work with any of the other Agencies who hire for that show either, as they know of her reputation and will not book her. So while Mary is working inside comfortably for a repeat client at $250 min./day, paid within 30 days, the only work Susan can find is distributing flyers outside the Convention Center for $20/hr. with a no-name Agency where she has to fight for 90+ days to get her check.
Mary can now plan her schedule in advance for the next full year with shows, as she knows that I will book her for every show that she has worked for me as well as all of her other Agencies.
Susan is applying every day for anything that comes her way, her work schedule is not secure, and she can't plan anything more than a month or two in advance.
And to put the icing on the proverbial cake, let's flash forward 10 years...
Mary is ready to make a career change. Because she has been such a good employee, I offer her a full-time position as an Account Manager with my Agency--benefits, 401K, generous commission, and the choice to work whatever shows she wants. She works from home, travels when she wants on my dime, has a family, and is financially secure. She has earned it.
And where is Susan? Still handing out flyers, maybe managing a few teams here and there, and complaining that no one will hire her. She is struggling to pay her bills, has to buy her own insurance and wonders how she is going to feed her kids. Yes, she has earned that, too.
You have a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to the Agencies who book you to take the High Road and honor the relationship you have built with each other. Do this, and you will succeed. Don't, and you will find yourself outside in the cold, looking in at those who are successful and wishing you were there too.
Life is Good. Life is better when we all remain professional.