Posted on Oct 28, 2013, By Don M. McNulty
With the bio cleaning industry growing we are seeing an emergence of a true “field of competition” between companies in a given region. As this happens, the marketing tactics of companies must change to accommodate that “field of competition”.
In the beginning years, we were the only bio cleaning company in our entire area. If you wanted a professional bio cleaning company to come in and clean up a trauma site it would have to be my company. The main way we marketed our company was through “referral agents.” A term we used for those who would be the most likely to know where these sites existed and have contact with the families; namely, all medical examiners (ME), coroners, law enforcement, funeral directors, ambulance companies, etc. As we approached law enforcement and coroners we were told in many cases they could not refer our company because that would create a “Conflict of Interest.”
According to a definition on the web site Wikipedia, “Generally, a conflict of interest can be defined as any situation in which an individual or corporation (either private or governmental) is in a position to exploit a professional or official capacity in some way for their personal or corporate benefit. Depending upon the law or rules related to a particular organization, the existence of a conflict of interest may not, in and of itself, be evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, for many professionals, it is virtually impossible to avoid having conflicts of interest from time to time. A conflict of interest can, however, become a legal matter, for example when an individual tries (and/or succeeds in) influencing the outcome of a decision, for personal benefit. Even if there is no evidence of improper actions, a conflict of interest can create an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence in the ability of that person to use his/her position with proper ethics. A conflict of interest can exist even if no unethical or improper act results from it.”
Even though these agencies openly refused to give referrals, on many occasions they would. The reason was explained, “that if you have a grieving family in front of you, learning yet another horror; that they may have to clean up the mess left behind, the referral agent, in all good conscience, could not walk away and leave them wondering where they could get help”, and of course we encouraged that behavior. As the years progressed entrepreneurs exploded our industry and now we have hundreds of companies across the United States and Canada performing this work. As competition heats up we are finding that companies are seeking ways to enhance their chances for a viable, stable company. Instead of learning how to market their companies in a competitive field, they are thwarting the process through dubious means. Some are in or have relatives in positions of government bureaucracies that build uncommon relationships with referral agents, some owners are law enforcement or ex-law enforcement, firefighters or county officials and have an inside track to investigators who are friends, and others have obtained county contracts to remove and transport body remains for the coroner’s office. All of these aforementioned circumstances create a “conflict of interest”, a “restraint of trade,” and may very well be committing a felony by way of the Sherman Act. The Federal Trade Commission oversees unfair trade and commerce. The act states in summary, “Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony…” By restraining trade any company or agency practicing these tactics can be found liable and their owners with a felony charge. If a lawsuit comes about due to these practices and the offending company is found guilty; the law states, that all monetary harm will be tripled and paid to the plaintive(s). If you find your company fighting against another company that is illegally restraining trade and/or creating a monopoly due to their position or an inside relationship you can take action. By obtaining a good antitrust attorney to file a complaint with the offending county agency, the county’s District Attorney, the State’s Attorney General, and the Federal Trade Commission. Do not allow illegal activity to erode your market share or block the free flow of competition.