Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Rest of the McKenzie Scott Saga (Updated 3/31/2013)

Update 6: See latest legal actions.

It's been a while since I posted - things have been busy... The incident I describe below happened about a month ago...

So after playing a little email tag, Brian and I finally hooked up again on the phone to talk about the next steps. Again, I have to say how impressed I've been with their sales job - Brian came across as available and helpful, but not over eager or pushy (yet).

We talked more about how to market my skills (or should I say skilz?) and the timelines involved. Brian layed out a very aggressive and ambitious approach about how we could proceed. At the end of the call, he agreed to point me a copy of their work agreement that outlined the financial details of how work would proceed (HERE'S THE LINK AT THE TIME [ed: this link is broken, if someone sends me a new link i'll update it. in the meantime, this post has a scanned copy of the agreement]) Up to this point, there still had been no discussion as to price...

As I read through this agreement I was struck by three things. The first was something I expected - the entry price was 8K and stretched up to 25K. Realistically you would have to spend at least 12K. That's a lot of money to pay up-front, but if the stuff really works, it's obviously worth it. Of course they have all these statements about "guarantees" but if you read the details of the guarantees, they don't really provide that much protection for the client (see below).

The second thing that struck me was in a section innocuously titled: How Long We Will Serve You...and the Completeness of This Agreement It said: "This agreement, along with our service guide, set forth our entire agreement. It supersedes any prior written or verbal understandings with any party, including any verbal understandings with any employee or agent of the firm or with third parties." WTF, did I read that correctly? It basically says that regardless of what Brian has told me, this agreement and the service guide are all I can rely upon in terms of expectations of service and outcomes. In other words, Brian can promise me whatever, but McKenzie Scott doesn't have to do what he says they'll do. (Not being a lawyer, I have no idea if this is a legal way to get out of fraud, but it seems pretty sleazy & questionable to me... And of course that this language is buried in a section that talks about how long McKenzie will keep working on my behalf makes it seem like a bait-and-switch even more.

The third piece is in a section titled: Mutual Confidentiality Regarding
This AgreementÂ… and Your Search. It has this preamble: "A certain percentage of the firm as clients are senior executives who are sometimes concerned that we not divulge anything about this agreement or our work for them, that would lead to commentary in the print, broadcast or internet media." It then goes onto say: "For this reason, the firm and all clients mutually agree that this agreement shall be kept confidential, and comments of any kind regarding it, our services and our clients, shall not be initiated or released to the print, broadcast or internet media, either anonymously, through a third party, or on a direct basis." And then as a kicker, they describe the penalty for violating this restriction: "In the rare event
that a breach should lead to public commentary, both parties agree that because of the difficulty of assessing damages… that a penalty will be due which is equal to the base executive service charge in this agreement, as stated on page 6." That's 8.5K.

This also has the effect preventing people from posting complaints about the service provided. Nice. The part of this that seems so duplicitious (ingeniously so) is that they state this as though it's to help protect their famous client rather than to cover their asses. To belabor the point (although it's probably obvious to anyone with even an ounce of skepticism) if they wanted to protect their clients names and reputation, they could do it in a much more narrow way then this restriction.

Sooooooo.... having read through the agreement, i was ready to Brian's call the next day. I suppose I could have pointed out all the issues above to him, But i didn't really see the point. What i said was basically that
1. they seemed like a company that really understood the market and had the capability to help out a lot in a job search but,
2. a deal like this that was structured with all the payments up front creates too much inventive for a good sales job and not enough for follow through. (And this really is my fundamental objection whIch i repeated consistently through the rest of the call...)

Well, Brian was pretty prepared for this objection. He quickly responded that even though the payment was up-front, the "money back guarantee" meant that the money would be given back if they didn't deliver. To that i pointed him to the service agreement which outlines the various gaurantees. The money back gaurantee is only valid at a very early point in the process after they have created a bunch of marketing material for you (but before you've had a chance to use it to search for jobs or McKenzie Scott find openings for you.) The point I made was that I'm already admitting that i don't know what the best marketing material/resumes look like - that's why I'm interested in hiring someone. And without being able to test the market with them, I really couldn't make an informed decision.

The other guarantees really only say that if you are unsatisfied with your "campaign," they'll assign a new team and redo it. And while on paper this seems like something they'd want to avoid and hence provide some disincentive, it's not nearly the same as cold hard cash. Or to paraphrase Dennis Miller about the K-mart blue-light special - "Two of shit is shit. If they really want to fuck you they'll give you three of them." Or a joke my dad used to tell about a lottery where the first prize was a week of vacation in Philadelphia. Second prize - two weeks vacation in Philadelphia. (I didn't reference these jokes to Brian - i didn't think he'd laugh...)

This seemed to knock Brian a little off his game. He continued to repeat the mantra that the need to redo a campaign was a disincentive enough. When this didn't seem to make any headway, he switched to giving me a some inside information. Apparently, he told McKenzie Scott has been working on a new agreement that would provide exactly the kind of arrangement where they were paid only when the candidate was placed. But, he lamented, it's being held up by the legal department and he didn't know when it would be available.

The call lasted about 45 minutes. I told Brian that when they got the new agreement that provided a different payment structure, to please call me back as i'd be very interested. He told me he would.

That evening I recieved an email from Brian with a bunch of testimonials about what job's they found and how much McKenzie Scott helped them. Of course, the company names were ommitted as well as the last names of the people. All completely unverifiable.

That was the last i ever heard from Brian.

Draw you own conclusions - obviously you know what i think.

Update: see new posting
Update 2: see new posting with copy of the agreement you sign
Update 3: Guess ITS et al got tired of people finding out about them. So what to do? Send in the lawyers. Here's their salvo and my response.

Update 4: If you've been a customer of ITS/McKenzie Scott, see this post.
Update 5: See breaking news...
UPDATE 6 (3/31/2013):See latest legal actions.