Q: We often entertain clients in our boardroom, but the catering is now so bad I'm ashamed to invite them. It was fine until our boss decided to replace the expensive caterers with his brother's company. They are cheaper, but the food isn't up to scratch. How do I raise the issue without offending my boss?
A: I bet your company is privately owned and that your boss is a majority shareholder. Owner-bosses often behave differently from appointed chief executives; it seems so natural for them to identify completely with their business that any distinction between family and company gets increasingly blurred.
I'm not approving your boss's action; just trying to understand it. And it means, I'm pretty sure, that he's not going to go back on it unless he can see that it's hitting his pocket.
On its own, your personal opinion of the boardroom catering won't carry much weight. And even without the family connection, it's hardly the ideal moment in the economic cycle to recommend reverting to the more expensive caterer without a hard-nosed case behind it.
So do you have good reason to believe that business is suffering as a result? Have any of your clients insisted on being entertained, presumably more expensively, at outside restaurants? Have they actually expressed dissatisfaction, or put some of their business elsewhere?
In other words, can you, credibly, trace either real revenue losses or increased expenses back to sub-standard boardroom catering? If so, marshal the evidence as convincingly as you can and suggest to your boss that this particular economy is beginning to hurt his business badly. If you can't, weedy though it may seem, I'd just get on with life as best you can. There's little point in starting a fight you know you won't win.