I hate favours

Some favours are no-brainers… but some come with so many strings attached you can’t help but get tripped up by them. Here’s what I mean…

I hate favours

Brendan Lewis

Since I have been getting up on my high horse lately about quality executions, I felt compelled to rant a bit about favours.

Favours drive me insane, because mostly they are not favours at all. So what do I mean? Consider this experience of mine…

One of my IT services companies had a rack mount server (a skinny little computer, one inch high, that belongs in computer racking). This computer ran a variety of services for us, a couple of websites and our email system.

The computer was kept at an internet service provider, which means it benefited from a high bandwidth internet connection. Because some of my staff were mates with staff at the ISP, and had helped them out on occasion, they did us a favour. The favour was they “hosted” the computer for free. A saving of around $2500 a year.

Now I didn’t like this favour, but couldn’t put my finger on exactly why.

My staff thought I was mad wanting to pay for hosting the computer, and argued heavily against changing the relationship.

Because I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what I didn’t like about the arrangement and had the other usual distractions, I let the situation run. Right up until the moment that our computer was disconnected without any warning.

What happened was that the IT manager at the ISP ran out of space, and needed our slot. Since we didn’t have a contract, he pulled out our box so that he could keep a paying customer happy. This “pulling” of our server was of course a very bad thing, and caused heartache, stress and problems for the best part of a week. The billable time chewed up fixing the situation that was worth well over the $2500 we hadn’t paid.

Now this isn’t the only issue I have had with favours. So here’s 10 reasons why I don’t like favours.

  1. Nine times out of 10 it’s not a favour at all – you are actually just bartering services. Have you ever had someone say to you “Hey, I helped you out last week!…”.
  2. Favour means service without the same quality you would get as a customer. Have you ever had a plumber mate do you a favour and fix your plumbing at cost, only to be left with no water in the bathroom for a week?
  3. Favour means you lose the right to complain about poor service. See above.
  4. Favours don’t come with enforceable warrantees or contractual arrangements.
  5. Favours don’t generally come with Trade Practices Act protection.
  6. The person doing the favour may not be authorised to do it. I have had some really angry customers when they found out they were no longer going to get free web site hosting in return for giving a staff member free drinks at their bar.
  7. The person doing you the favour leaves, and all of a sudden you have an urgent mess you need to deal with (which helped cause the ISP problem I initially talked about).
  8. The favours have real commercial value so you end up having to keep track of the favours anyway. I have provided a lead to a colleague who generated $100,000 profit out of it. In return they bought me a $12 lunch. (No more favours for him!).
  9. The person doing you the favour may compromise you downstream. Think any politician in the last decade who has been done a favour by Brian Burke.
  10. The person doing you the favour may have a specific agenda for doing you that favour. Think about the guy that gives you free service then wants a testimonial in return.

Now I am not the grinch, and not someone to cut off my nose to spite my own face, and agree that some favours are easy and no-brainers. However if it’s more than just a replacement cup of coffee, think carefully about how the favour could play out.


Brendan Lewis is a serial technology entrepreneur having founded : Ideas Lighting, Carradale Media, Edion, Verve IT, The Churchill Club, Flinders Pacific and L2i Technology Advisory. He has set up businesses in for others in Romania, Indonesia and Vietnam. Qualified in IT and Accounting, he has also spent time running an Advertising agency and as a Cavalry Officer with the Australian Army Reserve.

To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.



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