Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 3rd 2015 Contents Victor Greene had been a loyal
and dedicated sales repre-
sentative at Trendmar
Advertising for the past 12
years which is why he felt
depressed at the thought that
he might be the reason for the agency's closure.
He had watched, with growing disapproval,
some of the tactics being used by colleagues
to win contracts and boost sales but felt that
it was not his place to lecture them on what
he viewed as their ethical transgressions.
Moreover, he justified his silence by noting
that such practices were now commonplace
across the various agencies and apparently
accepted as simply the way business was done.
He had become increasingly concerned,
however, at the way in which such unethical
practices had become part of the culture of
the company while managers seemed to turn
a blind eye to customer complaints.
The breaking point for him had come when
he noticed another sales representative padding
an invoice for a series of ads being produced
for one of the agency's largest clients. When
confronted by Victor, he had freely admitted
to what he was doing but stated that he had
only overbilled a few extra hours which he
doubted the client would notice.
In fact, he seemed surprised that Victor
appeared upset at what he was doing and
bluntly refused to correct the invoice before
sending it to the client. This led Victor to seri-
ously consider seeking employment elsewhere
and alerting clients to what was taking place.
He was mindful, however, that while such
actions might benefit the firm's clients it could
force the agency into bankruptcy and make
him a pariah in the industry. He truly felt
trapped on the horns of this moral dilemma.
Trendmar Advertising was established in
2003 to provide services to clients seeking to
embrace the digital revolution.
It specialised in Web site design and social
media marketing using platforms such as
Twitter and Facebook to promote client brands.
Sales had grown rapidly during the first seven
years of the company's existence, partly due
to the strength of the IT department and the
novelty of the services being offered. The com-
pany had also been featured in the business
section of two daily newspapers and was gen-
erally viewed as one of the most attractive
small companies to work for in the local tech-
Over the last five years, however, a number
of larger competitors had started offering sim-
ilar services and sales had been relatively flat.
In an attempt to improve profits, the general
manager had issued a memo in 2013 indicating
that the company would be cutting expenses
and would therefore no longer host the annual
Christmas party or sports day.
The monthly sales quotas assigned to sales
representative to achieve a bonus was also
increased from $20,000 to $30,000 while
traveling allowances were reduced by 25 per
cent. This resulted in an increase in turnover
among the existing sales staff and the recruit-
ment of several younger sales representatives
who management perceived as "hungry" for
Unlike the existing employees, who received
a base salary, these new recruits worked on
a commission only basis and were encouraged
to aggressively pursue new customers.
At the last staff meeting, the idea of con-
verting all contracts to a commission only sys-
tem was raised but further discussion of this
idea was postponed after vociferous objections
on the part of several of the more senior sales
Although a final decision had not yet been
taken, Victor believed that it was only a matter
of time before the new policy was implement-
ed.At the start of 2014, one of the sales rep-
resentatives at the agency got the approval
from her supervisor to start charging clients
a "web optimisation" fee which presumably
covered the additional cost of enhancing the
standard look of Web sites created for clients.
In reality, no changes were made to the Web
site but since clients only saw rough drafts of
the Web site in the early stages of development,
they were unable to tell whether the finished
product had been optimised or not. This had
boosted sales for that representative and the
practice was quickly copied by other sales reps
at the agency.
Additionally, only two clients complained
about the implementation of this fee and
threatened to report the matter to the Adver-
tising Agencies Association.
They were quickly reassured by managers,
however, that this fee would be reversed on
their accounts and they would be given a dis-
count on their next order.
Around that time, senior management had
also announced a reduction in the IT staff as
part of a cost-cutting exercise. They announced
at a companywide meeting that they expected
the remaining staff to "double up" their efforts
to ensure that productivity did not suffer as
a result of the job cuts.
Following this announcement, three of the
senior programmers left the company to start
their own IT consultancy.
Two of the company's clients switched their
business to this new company after it was
formed. Rumours spread that the threshold
for getting a bonus would be increased to
$40,000 and that another round of layoffs
Victor had become increasingly disheartened
at the changes taking place in the company.
He felt that the new sales representatives were
willing to cut too many corners in their aggres-
sive pursuit of sales and were engaging in
many unethical practices that he found per-
What was worse, was his sense that senior
managers knew about these practices and were
turning a blind eye to them in order to achieve
their budgets. He considered quitting his job
but with the downturn in the economy was
uncertain how easy it would be to find employ-
ment with a comparable salary. He found it
increasingly stressful, however, to remain com-
mitted to a company where unethical behaviour
was taking place.
On the other hand, he was one of the few
sales representatives on track to achieve their
monthly bonus. With a mortgage and child
support to pay, he wondered whether he it
made sense to rock the boat at this time.
1. What factors have led the
organisation to the current
2. What are the pros and
cons of the options available
3. What advice would you
give to Victor about
becoming a whistleblower?
Dr Barney Pacheco is a lecturer in the
Department of Management Studies at
The University of the West Indies, St Augus-
SBG12 CASE STUDY
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 3 • 2015
Case Study: Trendmar Advertising
When a company falls...
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