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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006.



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30.11.2013

Business etiquette 101: don’t threaten lawsuits against a customer proposing an idea which you later adopt

Interesting to spot this link. When I started Autocade in 2008, I approached Haymarket, letting them know I was a Classic and Sportscar reader since it began in the 1980s, and I was inspired by the Sedgwick guides that it ran then. Autocade was to be an online cyclopædia that would use a brief format, with original research, of course, but I would welcome the input of C&SC if it so wished.
   As I recall, the response from the boss was condescending. His staff were so busy there was no way they could ever contribute to such a venture, he told me. That was before the threat: if any part of the Sedgwick guides wound up in Autocade, there would be a lawsuit.
   All this in a single reply, to someone who told him he was a customer since 1983.
   This link illustrates that the first part of his response was complete bollocks, as the guide now exists online, and has done so for nearly three years. In fact, C&SC solicits input from the public. They have taken the Autocade approach.
   And seriously, did he think another publisher would be stupid enough to reproduce the guides online for all to see?
   No, Haymarket has not broken the law: anyone is free to do a guide with their own, original content, and they are free to solicit outside help.
   Nor do I particularly mind seeing this guide online (right down to the ‘most recently updated’ column) because it helps with research—anything is better than the inaccuracies, assumptions and rumours that pass for facts in Wikipedia. There’s only a tiny bit of overlap with Autocade in terms of the eras covered, so the two sites complement one another.
   But it smacks of gross hypocrisy.
   Not only are they doing something they said they would never do because they lacked the resources, they threatened a loyal customer when they had no basis to do so.
   In essence: Haymarket Publishing once threatened me with a lawsuit for proposing an idea, one which they have since adopted. Yes, it really is that simple.
   I lost a lot of respect for a certain Haymarket big-wig that day, someone whose work I had read and admired for decades. It’s surprising to think he hadn’t learned some basic rules in business.
   Brands are not steered by market dominance or big corporate mouths. They are, instead, steered by everyday people, who you should work with, rather than make unwarranted threats against.
   Oh, after reassuring the chap that Autocade would have only original content (after all, he may have not known that New Zealanders are generally law-abiding), I never received an apology for his unprofessional behaviour.
   Even a note of thanks now would be nice for borrowing an idea they were presented with five years ago.

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Filed under: branding, business, cars, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, UK—Jack Yan @ 06.00

One Response to ‘Business etiquette 101: don’t threaten lawsuits against a customer proposing an idea which you later adopt’

  1. […] by the late Michael Sedgwick, though our content is all original, and subject to copyright; and there’s a separate story to tell there, too.    I acknowledge there are still gaps on the site, but as we grow it, we’ll plug them. […]

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