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Contract Employee and/or Consultant?

I am an experienced CFO who is currently engaged as an Interim Assistant Controller through a temporary agency.  Due to high-level turnover at the client, the CFO and Controller have recently been promoted into their roles and there is a deficit in high-level institutional knowledge.

I have become aware of an issue that will require analytical work befitting an Assistant Controller.  However, the client may well also need advisory services that they could not reasonably expect an Assistant Controller to provide.  This could possibly entail leading sensitive negotiations that I am uniquely equipped to undertake.

I have made a commitment for 'x' weeks to the agency and client and am happy to honor that commitment.  My question is this:  should I propose that the client also enter into a consulting agreement with me for the advisory services?  Naturally, any time spent would be on top of the Assistant Controller duties and I would not "double dip."

What does this group of experts see as the ethical implications of such a dual role?  I would expect to disclose it to the agency so that all parties are aware.  I would also be willing to negotiate a finder's fee with the agency.



Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

As a consultant, every customer is either a source of additional business or a referral source. They are also able to bad mouth you if anything is perceived to be unethical. I am sorry but perception is reality. I have the following suggestion -- prepare a document of the work that is needed and submit it to your client. You will look very good, going above and beyond. Let it be the client's idea that you complete the project. The potential downside - they hire someone else for the project. But even with this downside, you look good as you identified the need. Good luck.

Thomas Phillips
Title: President
Company: Effective Agreements
(President, Effective Agreements) |

Regis Quinn's answer is a good one. However, I suggest that, before doing anything else, you read your agreement with the temp agency to see how it applies.

Mark Woollgar
Title: Partner
Company: Adams Woollgar Financial Services LLC
(Partner, Adams Woollgar Financial Services LLC) |

I think that you have to dance with the person who brought you i.e. the agency. You should meet with your supervisor at the agency and point out that there is an issue that THEY should be compensated at a significantly higher rate. Accordingly, if they negotiate with the client for a higher rate, you should get a higher rate.

The only other option is to include the services it in the regular rate. In which case you just get a current bragging point on your resume for future services to other clients.

(Controller) |

Excellent responses, everyone. The issue has not yet arisen but Mark's approach makes perfect sense. The irony is that I used to source temporary staffing from the same firm as a manager at the client's sister organization across the street. However, that has no bearing on the correct handling of the anticipated opportunity if it should arise.

Topic Expert
Linda Wright
Title: Consultant
Company: Wright Consulting
(Consultant, Wright Consulting) |

I agree work and have done a deal along the lines that Mark suggests. You need to keep both parties satisfied and absolutely keep within the contractual boundaries of the agency agreement.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

You need to read the employment contract you signed with the staffing agency. Generally they will not agree to allow you to accept a client they were responsible for introducing you to.

Legally they most likely will not pursue prosecution if you break the agreement, however you will also be listed as "unsuitable for rehire" which might result in unanticipated results in your future. Recruiters move from firm to firm and they take their "unsuitable" lists with them so not to be burned at the next agency by repeat problem contractors.

Technically the client you have been placed at more than likely also signed a contract, called an MSA, master service agreement that states they are not allowed to poach consultants for their own purposes. Or they have to pay a 30-50% conversion fee.

So you have the option, ignore the contracts and go rogue at risk of losing future employment opportunities all over town, or do the right thing and say no thank you, while you help the staffing firm to negotiate their next deal with that client.

Staffing firms live and die by their consultants being able to embed themselves in the clients for the long term. Its part of the staffing game. If you don't like that you need to find direct employment or form your own company. Staffing firms are not there to solve a problem they are there to continue their ongoing fee relationship, sort of like a parasite.

If your supervisor at the client is trying to pull you away from the staffing firm, you will find that most CFO's will ask that question, but usually only the ones with ethics issues will continue to work you until you get uncomfortable about it. Usually there are problems in the company such as you mentioned, unqualified staff, no longer term historians on staff. These are the things that you should take a clue from, poor work environment means they cannot retain qualifed staff. If the CFO is asking you to side step your employment agreement they will have no problem asking you to do a fraud or two in their reporting processes.

These bad CFOs exist and you only learn the signs by examining the environment and seeing if they ask you to set down your principles.

Tell your staffing firm what the new game is and either ask to be reassigned to a new client or ask their sales people to call the CFO and ask them if they have additional needs that can be filled. Its the right thing to do.

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

Work with your staffing firm. Technically they are your "employer" per se. In the event this assignment doesn't result in full time hire, future assignments will be more in line with your qualifications and earn you a higher rate. Let the agency "sell your skills" for you.

Jim Schwartz
Title: Corporate financial advisor
Company: Wabash Financial Strategies
(Corporate financial advisor, Wabash Financial Strategies) |

Registration or non-disclosure materials for online consulting sites (e.g., Zintro) or temporary staffing firms (e.g., Experis or Solomon Edwards) have explicit non-circumvention language. If your staffing firm is on the ball, they will have similar language in their agreements with you and their client. Even if they don't, the ethical approach is, as noted by several others, is to work through the staffing firm. You will likely earn less that way than as a direct consultant, but you remain professional and preserve your integrity.


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