Thursday, November 14, 2013

Are You Ruining Your Reputation with Recommendations?

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”  ~ Warren Buffett

Earlier this year my colleague Jack shared a tale of his endorsement gone awry. One of his clients requested a recommendation for a teaching residency. He gave the request careful consideration and felt comfortable endorsing an associate.

Things quickly went downhill from there. It began badly with the teaching artist’s failure to contact the client in a timely manner. Strike one.  No contract was sent outlining the artist’s expectations and no follow through with the requested residency plans. Strike two. During the first week of the residency the teaching artist publicly complained about specific problems to the wrong people. Strike three.

The client contacted Jack to share his displeasure regarding the recommendation. Jack was extremely embarrassed by his colleagues’ lack of professionalism and apologized profusely. Then he began to worry. Would the client’s negative experience affect his own reputation and work in the community? Jack had certainly given a hearty endorsement of his colleagues’ skills, background and expertise. Would his opinion no longer be valued?

Jack’s experience reminded me of the many times I have recommended colleagues. I know when I offer an endorsement I am placing my own professional reputation on the line. I am thoughtful about whom I recommend and part of my process is not only considering a colleague’s talent and organizational fit, but their professionalism as well.

Establishing positive name recognition (See Branding: It Doesn’t Have to Hurt can take years and it is one of our most valuable commodities; in fact, it is priceless. Yet, our progress can quickly diminish when our name is attached to someone's less than stellar work, and with the plethora of social media outlets today bad reviews will spread quickly and efficiently. . (See 10 Tips for Crisis Management in the Digital World in the article section below.)

I’m sure you have heard of the Five P’s of Success: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance and before I endorse anyone I check my own list of P’s.

My Five P’s of Professionalism
ü  Proficient
ü  Prepared
ü  Prompt
ü  Pleasant
ü  Polished

My check list for my direct clients as well as those that come from colleagues is the same:

ü  Answer the client’s email inquiry promptly.
ü  Speak directly with the client to ensure both of our needs are met.
ü  Send out contract in a timely manner detailing cost, mileage, etc.
ü  Contact client a week before the presentation. Clarify objectives.
ü  Send a thank you note to the client after the project is complete.

My colleagues and I often discuss how storytellers/teaching artists are not always treated with the same respect as other professionals. There are countless stories of potential clients assuming we will work for little or no money. Many do not understand the commitment, energy, and expense our work entails. (See The Tools of the Trade at ) Consequently, when one colleague acts in an unreliable manner it reflects poorly on everyone, perpetuating the perception that we are not professionals.

When we are privileged to receive a colleague’s endorsement, both your reputation and theirs is on the line. We owe it to them, our community and mostly to ourselves, to put our best professional foot forward. Together we can change perceptions one step at a time.

*Jack is a pseudonym


4 Ways to Keep Up Your Business’ Online Reputation

Seven Ways to Ruin Your Professional Reputation

10 Tips for Crisis Management in the Digital World

Handling a Reputation Crisis: Ways an Entrepreneur Can Handle Social Media Posts

How to Ruin Your Professional Reputation

Reputation: You Can’t Run From Your Shadow

Was there ever a time when one of your recommendations went awry? How did you handle it? I would love to hear your stories in the comments section below.

Karen Chace 2013 ©

This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.


Unknown said...

THANK YOU for this article and it has presented a problem in my life and I had to say "No I don't want to share contacts, but thanks for asking." "I hope my clients call me back and I really don't have time to contact your clients." It was hard but I feared the feed back because we are not alike and I have a niche so I protect that niche

Anonymous said...

Your words are spot on, Karen. We are storytellers, we get paid for telling stories, we all need to be professional to be treated as professional. Tony T

Karen Chace said...

Thank you Mary Jo and Tony. I truly appreciate the time you took to read the blog and comment.

It is definitely something we need to be aware of, our recommendations reflect on our reputation. Thank you for your support; you are both appreciated!

Beverly Cottman said...

Thanks Karen. It is always good to be reminded of the simple elements of professionalism. Sending a thank you note is ALWAYS a good idea. It will cement your good impression, excellent presentation and wise words in the mind of your client.
As I have said before, I always learn something from your blog.

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right. Reputations are on the line. I am very careful about who I recommend .

Bob Kanegis said...

Thanks for taking on a difficult subject.

It brought to mind this by Confucious...

" If you see a worthy man, try and emulate him. If you see an unworthy man, look into your own heart."

Karen Chace said...

Thank you for our kind words Andrea and Beverly. I know both of you personify the word "professional" so it is wonderful to have your feedback and support.

Karen Chace said...

Thank you Bob, your words of wisdom are always appreciated.

Donna Washington - Storyteller said...


thank you for this great article. We are part of a very welcoming and friendly business, but we must not forget that it is still a business.

Karen Chace said...

Amen to that Donna! Thank you for taking the time to comment. We can all learn a lot by watching you.

Linda said...

Once again you are on point! Thanks Karen!

Stories by Julie said...

Thank you for your words of wisdom. You are right, we live and die by our reputation. I always learn when I read your blog.

Karen Chace said...

Thank you Julie, that is a huge compliment. I am so happy to hear from you. I have been following your health progress on Facebook; I am in awe of your strength and resilience. Stay well!

Sheila Arnold said...

Karen, this is a great article. May I add a story; I am a storyteller. :) I had a friend who had seen me before just once, that was asked about me and my performances. She truthfully responded, she hadn't seen me enough. When she had seen me more often and performed with me, she gave a wonderful and truthful recommendation. She has taught me to not just give an opinion because I've only seen one story or, even one performance, but to be a person of integrity when recommending.

I really appreciate what you have written, Karen, it's necessary. Much peace,

Karen Chace said...

Hi Sheila,

There is always time for a story from you! Thank you for sharing that experience. I have a rule, I don't form an opinion of a storyteller's skills until I have heard them tell at least three times. We all have difficult days and and as the years go on, hopefully our skills are honed.

Thank you for your insight and honesty.