Dear Mr. Ethics,
Our company owner instituted a program when the market tanked a few years ago. The program called for each project manager to meet with our regular developers and potential clients at least once a month. These meetings could include luncheons as well as meeting for cocktails. The program was a success in getting us opportunities and actual projects. Our owner wants us to continue this program. I am happy meeting with my developers and clients but I am not sure about buying the lunches and the cocktails. It feels as though I am buying projects instead of earning them. Is my concern valid?
Reputation and marketing are a company’s life blood. There is nothing wrong with entertaining clients so long as it does not cross the line in buying an individual’s personal influence. If the entertainment is specifically undertaken to influence someone to direct a contract your way then your actions are unethical. If it is undertaken simply to recognize a client then there is no problem. With public clients the line is much brighter and more punitive if violated. With public clients most local and state laws do not attempt to distinguish between innocent entertainment and influence buying. In some jurisdictions any entertain is perceived as being unethical and potentially illegal.
Very truly yours,