Running a business is a lot of work and takes a number of different skills. Hiring someone to work for you – be it as an employee, a consultant, or by contracting with another company – can help you get more done without having to be responsible for everything yourself. But hiring someone without being an educated consumer about the type of work that is to be done can leave you in hot water.
A couple of weeks ago, I received this email –>
It’s from a local eye doctor. What is interesting, however, is that I have never been a patient! Nor, have I ever actually stepped foot in the business.
So, how then did they come to send me this email?
Most likely this email was sent out by a company contacted by the eye doctor, under the guise of using “email marketing” to grow their business. And that company purchased an email list with my information on it.
But, what’s the problem?
Besides potentially annoying a would-be client (who happened to be in need of new eyeglasses, by the way), this email broke the law.
The CAN-SPAM Act was enacted to reduce the amount of spam that we have to deal with in our inboxes. And as such, it has very specific guidelines about what is spam and what isn’t. The company that created this email erroneously thought that by disguising the email as something that would only be sent to clients, they are bypassing the spam designation. Relationship-based messages are allowed, but to qualify they must be “part of a transaction that the recipient already has agreed to.”
This email is considered spam simply because it was sent in bulk to people who are not clients.
Ok, so they sent some spam, what’s the big deal?
Sending spam doesn’t seem like that big a deal. After all, it’s just email. But sending that email breaks the law, and the CAN-SPAM Act allows for monetary fines to be imposed on law-breakers, to the tune of up to $16,000 per separate email in violation. Ouch!
The law also states very specifically that a business cannot assign away its legal responsibility to follow this law. In other words, if you unknowingly break the law because you hired someone else to act on your behalf and that person or entity broke the law, you are still responsible. Ignorance isn’t a valid defense in this case.
If owners of this business had educated themselves about email marketing before hiring this company, they would have recognized that the techniques that were being suggested were inappropriate (not to mention illegal).
When you hire someone for your business, you are buying their expertise, but not every ‘expert’ has the same expertise. Some people are great about educating themselves about the issues affecting their industry, and then educating their clients about them, some are not so good. You may be lucky and choose one of the great ones, or you may end up with someone who isn’t so great. The thing is, you likely won’t be able to tell the difference unless you have educated yourself about the industry and are an educated consumer.
When you are an educated consumer for you business, you know enough to:
- Hire the right person to do the job
- Describe what you want done in terms that the other person can easily grasp
- Participate fully in decisions made about how the job is done by understanding why it is to be done that way
- Recognize when solutions suggested are not appropriate for you or your business
Now, you might be thinking, “but I don’t have enough time to learn any more stuff! I have enough to keep track of already!”. And here is why many business people get caught in the trap that befell my local eye doctor — they believe that they have to learn how to do something in order to be educated about it. But you don’t.
I’m an educated consumer when it comes to my car, thanks to my Dad. But I don’t know how to do a tune-up, balance the tires, or even change the oil. What I do know is I know why those things are important. It is this type of understanding that you should strive for in your business — to understand the why.
Whether you do everything yourself or hire help, ultimately you are still responsible for everything in your business. Invest some time in becoming an educated consumer and you’ll be sure to make the right decision every time.