Finances & Money

Lessons Learned from a Failed Contract: Be Prepared

Just last week, I told you how the contract that I’ve been working on for the last 18 months has been killed by the client. I’m virtually “jobless”, but I’m still employed. For now, until further notice, I’ll be mixing use of paid vacation and (hopefully soon) “bench time”.

For you non-contractors, bench time is when you’re paid out of the company’s pocket rather than being directly billable to a client. You may be doing internal work, getting training, or just sitting on your duff all day play Nintendo.

But what is one major lesson I learned last week as I met for what could be the last time I see many of these coworkers? Be Prepared!

Our project team of 13 contractors came from 5 different companies, and each company has a different policy and threshold for paying out of their profit to keep someone. In fact, two of us are totally unemployed now. However, those two banked very nice salaries as independent contractors, and have spouses who are also making enough to cover them in the interim.

Six more of us are with my company and our boss is working diligently to find us a new home. All but one of us is pretty sure of where they’ll go next, but for me, if I’m asked to use more vacation time after this week, I’m posting my resume, and I’ll tell my boss that this week to make sure he understands I’m not going to wait around.

Another contractor isn’t quite sure of his company’s policy on bench time (that brings us to 9), while I can’t be sure two others will even be kept by their company. They haven’t proven their value throughout this whole contract and I’d be surprised if the new owner doesn’t drop them rather than benching them.

Sad But True

The last two tales of woe are a bit depressing. One of our coworkers happened to be out of the country on vacation all last week. I really hope she checks her voicemail (assuming her boss or my boss left her one) to know the new project status. I can’t imagine walking into an empty office right after vacation, thinking you’re ready to get back to work!

Lastly, one contractor just started this project last Monday. It was her first week on the job and was in the process of moving from West Virginia to Northern VA. She hurt her back moving Thursday and was out of the office on Friday. She was temp-to-perm status with my company, so I don’t know what they’ll do with her, and whether she left her old company to be with ours (or if that contract simply ended). She’s not young, but she’s used to picking up a lot as a contractor. In fact, I found out I worked with her on the same project 2 years ago, although she was on the Europe team at the time.

All-in-all, I hope to be able to work with at least half the team again (those who are specialists in my field), but only a few are actual employees of my company. It’s turning out to be a small community where networking is key, so I don’t doubt we’ll cross paths again in the future, but it’s sad that everything ended so abruptly, including our now severed friendships. That’s one thing you can’t ever prepare for.

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Clever Dude


  • […] consulting firm. Second you have to understand what ‘being on the bench’ means and how it’s basically death for consultants. Being on the bench is when you’re not working on a client’s project. You’re not […]

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