Do you frequently conduct business without a written agreement? Have you recently been disappointed by a vendor who didn’t quite deliver the way you had expected?
If you answered yes, then things need to change.
I often meet small business owners and entrepreneurs who tell me horror stories of how they’ve hired vendors for a product or service and while they thought they were clear on the costs, timeline, and project expectations, somehow it changed when the work began. Essentially, the product or service that was promised was not delivered—in some cases either the vendor didn’t follow the agreed timeline; the vendor suddenly became unavailable; or the vendor forgot what was promised.
Now it must be noted that the faulty line of communication goes both ways. It is possible that a client can get foggy memory and ask for more than what was originally promised or forget what part they were supposed to play in helping the vendor complete the project.
Thus, it is important for clients and vendors to protect themselves with a written agreement. A handshake just won’t do anymore.
Below are my top six suggestions when charting this new territory of written agreements.
- Find a lawyer. Ask friends and family you trust for recommendations for a lawyer that specializes in working with small businesses, entrepreneurs, or whatever industry you work in. For example, if you work in the entertainment industry, it would be beneficial to find someone who understands that world and is familiar with what type of situations could occur.
- Establish a general agreement for your business. At a minimum you should have a general written agreement that reflects your core product and/or services. Your lawyer will account for any situations that you may typically experience in your line of work.
- Be explicit. In an effort for your lawyer to create a valuable agreement, make sure you are clear with your lawyer on what you will or won’t do. For instance, if you are a performer who tours a lot and clients typically don’t give you a per diem or lunch break, but they always want you to work longer hours, and this makes you uncomfortable, make sure your agreement accounts for this type of occurrence.
- Review the agreement with your client or vendor. Make sure you make yourself available to review the agreement with your client or vendor and answer any questions they have. If they have changes, you should work with your lawyer to determine if it is advantageous for you. If this is a new business relationship, this is a wonderful opportunity to let them know about your “work” personality or style—such as your communication preferences or normal availability.
- Keep a working list of what does or doesn’t work well. Although you have a written agreement, it does not mean things will be perfect. As you work through a project, it would be great to keep a list of things that went well and things that you would change the next go around, so that can be incorporated into future agreements.
- Sign the agreement. Both parties should sign and date the agreement—which means everyone is completely aware of all aspects of this contract and will abide by its terms and conditions.
Wishing you all the best, business rock stars!
Do you have any interesting stories of business life before using written agreements? Tweet them to me @bestrategicPR with #SmallBiz #MyStory.