How Do You Integrators Protect Your Intellectual Creativity?

This has bothered me for years. Please excuse me in advance, but this is going to be a question, or series of questions, and it is also going to be a rant of sorts. I cannot tell you how many times in my career I or my company have designed a unique solution to a problem only to have the customer shop it around (as their idea) after we presented it. I am sure it has happened to every integrator there at one time or another. There really is very little that can be done about it technically. There are times (public dollars) when a large purchase has to be put out for public bid because of the dollars involved. It is law. I have no issues. But private purchases don't have the same requirements. There may be corporate policies that require it, but there are no laws that do. Shouldn't that customer have some consideration of some kind to the "problem-solver"? Shouldn't they be compensated in some way??

I read a different discussion about "reasons sales were lost" and one customer had a rightous answer. Some integrators don't listen. I think she was spot on. But this is to some degree that rant in reverse. Very, very recently (obviously) I employed existing technology, but different thinking to enable a customer to get exactly what they wanted and needed, AND save them approximately 60%. Other vendors were asked to the sight, listened to the customer and told them to hire an engineer, and yes, "call us when you have some plans, we would be glad to bid the job". I didn't do that. I used unconventional methods, solved their problem, only to have my thinking shopped around to the lowest bidder. I didn't charge for my design (I probably should have), nor did I charge for acquiring the equipment and the testing time (all shot now). I mistakingly thought I was dealing with someone with integrity. Once again, everything has a price, including integrity.

As a rule, I do write proposals with part numbers and cost; a detailed quote. It is easy to shop it around. Also, as a rule, I have found that almost all customers eventually ask for it, so I just furnish it upfront. I am not ashamed of my prices. So here is one question? Which method offers more protection? Detailed costing or lump sum? I have considered switching to a lump sum proposal, and only agree to furnish detailed costing once the agreement is signed to help eliminate some of the shopping. And would you furnish any part numbers at all with a lump sum method or just say "here is our solution, here is the price; once you sign the contract, here are the details"? If they won't agree to it, then I don't need them as a customer anyway.

Another question; is there any way, and I have looked at a lot of them, from a technical perspective, to furnish a quote that can't be printed or screen captured? Programs like "Snipit" or "Snagit" can capture a screenshot and I can't figure out a way to stop it. "Print Screen", "Print" workarounds, and PDF passwords only offer so much technical protection. At some point, a built-in tool like "Snipit" just allow anyone to capture a screenshot and emailed to as an RFP.

I saw a good video recently on transparancy (someone here provided the link). It convincingly made a case to be very transparent about the way you do business; publish equipment and prices too. Yes the competition will have a built-in advantage, but your competition does not pay your bills. But this is different. I have taken a lot of time (money) to solve a problem no one else wanted to touch, only to have the customer shop the solution. In 30 years, it has happened countless times and I have never figured out a way to stop it, or curb it.

The aforementioned Purchasing Officer in a different thread correctly made the case that some vendors do not listen, or think they know more. What do you do with what I consider unethical customers. Unethical may be an over-statement, but it sure feels that way. There is something unprofessional about it at a minimum. The worst offenders are committees that think they are doing what is in the best interest of their group by saving the group money. They are not professional buyers or purchasing agents who typically have some ethical, professional behavior.

There is no consideration or compensation for creative thinking at all, and it has gotten incrementally more prevalent every year. It is to the point that while I enjoy what I do, I could go mow grass and be just as happy. There have been other threads that asked "should younger people get into this business"? Today, I would say go do something else. No matter what it is, protect your creative thinking.

If nothing else, I have gotten this off of my chest. And no, I don't mind putting my name on it, regardless of who sees it. I would appreciate input though. My time and talent does translate into dollars. If you don't think a person's time or talent is worth anything, just say so; you won't offend me. I would rather go donate that time to the DAV or Habitat, or spend it with my family. But please stop pretending.

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