Which is more important – fee or relationship?

Scales

A while ago I was thrust into an interesting situation.

A long-term commercial client of mine had asked me if I could recommend a specialist tax consultant for some advice that he needed regarding a pending transaction.

To cut a long story short, I recommended a senior tax specialist to my client and the two of them started to meet to plan and discuss  the project at hand. The first meeting went well and then things fell apart.

Without going into the gory details, the advice delivered didn’t help my client and the final bill that came was about double what the client thought the service was worth.

A tax friend on one side and a long term client on the other. I was the chap who brought them together and neither was happy. Not a good situation to say the least!

I suggested to both parties that we meet and hash things out.

We got together and each party presented their views in a full and frank way. After about 30 minutes, my tax consultant friend made a really interesting statement that changed the whole tone and atmosphere of the meeting.

With names changed and a little license on my part… this is what the tax chap said:

Wayne… I’m sorry you’re not happy. I think we have had a communication breakdown and that has created an outcome that is not what you want or what I want. I’m not worried about my fee. The most important thing here is my relationship with you. I’d like to think that you and I will be able to work together in the future. I’m happy to wipe my fee and start again.

There was a pause and my client (I could see) was impressed with the tax chap’s attitude and willingness to admit fault and start over. My client said that he was happy to pay 50 percent of the fee owing and would be open to work with the tax chap again.

I hope this has reinforced to you which of “fee and relationship” is the more important.