Suppose your spouse came home one day and said, "I have been good to you each and every day - except for six specific times over the course of the last eight years."

What would you think? Would you be mad? Would you be crushed? Would you feel cheated? Would you up and leave that spouse?

Let's take a slightly different twist to the same scenario. As a contractor, you have an allegiance to the brand you sell and, for the most part, the manufacturer of that brand. In this case, the contractor is the customer of the manufacturer, right?

Well, suppose one day that manufacturer came by and took your best employee without asking. Would you be happy about that? Would you confront that manufacturer? Would you feel cheated? Would you up and leave that manufacturer?

Taking this one step further, suppose this manufacturer took six of your long-time employees over the course of the last eight years. Suppose it said, "Hey, we've been good to you each and every day - except for taking six of your top employees over the course of the last eight years."

I'll ask it again: What would you think? Would you be mad? Would you be crushed? Would you feel cheated? Would you up and leave this manufacturer and become a dealer for a totally different brand? Even if you have been a customer of this manufacturer for over 20 years and you like their products?

I ask these questions because there is a contractor in North Carolina that is wrestling over this dilemma.


In this case, the contractor and manufacturer shall not be revealed to protect the innocent. However, the above scenario is and has been happening to a contractor, who called recently to ask what I would do. And, it's a good question.

While losing six employees does not sound like much over eight years, the contractor (let's call him Joe) in question is up in arms over the way this manufacturer stole his prized workers. Contractor Joe prides himself on training techs, teaching them the ins and outs of the trade, and keeping his employees for life. In this case, he lost an 18-year veteran and a 16-year veteran to the manufacturer.

After each takeaway, contractor Joe said he approached the manufacturer and pleaded that it let his employees alone. He knows he does not have any control should an employee approach a manufacturer for a job, but it is his belief that a manufacturer - especially a manufacturer he has been faithful to and has been selling its products for over 20 years - should approach contractor Joe first, to discuss the notion. And, in Joe's eyes, should the contractor object to the manufacturer talking to one of his employees, then the manufacturer should honor that contractor's plea.

In this case, it appears the manufacturer continues to get some of contractor Joe's best employees - making this contractor believe that the manufacturer is biting the hand that feeds it.

And this is all after a few face-to-face meetings with the manufacturer. And this is all after pleas not to do this "questionable" hiring tactic.

Again, losing six top employees over the course of eight years to one place does not sound like much or threatening, but it means a lot to contractor Joe, who said it is difficult enough to bring prospective technicians into the field. Again, there is a reason contractor Joe spends so much time teaching his employees; he wants each to be there for life.


Not sure what the "politically correct" answer is here. In truth, the manufacturer can certainly do what it wants.

Apparently, it likes the way contractor Joe teaches his employees, because it goes after some. Admittedly, this practice could put one of the manufacturer's customers out of work - this is contractor Joe's worst fear, be it accurate or not.

In this case, there are just more questions than answers:

  • Just because a contractor asks a manufacturer to stay away from his employees, does this mean it should have to?

  • As a contractor, do you ask another contractor if you can have permission to talk to one of that contractor's employees - or, do you do it without asking?

  • As a faithful purchaser of Brand X - and, contractor Joe believes that qualifies him as a customer of Brand X - should Brand X steer away from hiring an employee from one of its customers (meaning, contractor Joe)? Instead, should it dip into the employment pool of other contractors who do not purchase or sell Brand X?

  • Are there any written - as well as unwritten - rules in the hiring process?

  • Can you understand why contractor Joe is upset? But, in this day and age, shouldn't he just grin and bear it?

  • Would you drop that manufacturer and select a different brand to sell?

    Let me know what you think about all of this. Feel free to e-mail me your thoughts and advice on the subject. I know contractor Joe is still befuddled about the entire picture.

    And, frustrated.

    Publication date: 08/14/2006