Dealing With Business Agreements

Tuesday, 03 January 2012 06:30
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Put Agreements in Writing Today to Avoid Problems Tomorrow.

Some years ago, a lawyer acquaintance quipped to me, "To avoid a mess, put it on paper." His advice remains sound and worth heeding.

I have learned to memorialize all of my company's agreements as written contracts at the outset of a business relationship to keep these current as changes become necessary.  While I typically don't experience serious problems in working through legal agreements with large corporate clients/business partners or even my smaller business clients, some problems can arise on occasion. As one colleague has aptly shared with me, "Wrtiten contracts don't exist for when everything is going well. They're for the occasions when they aren't." That's why, regardless of whether your company is big or small, the message of "well constructed legal agreeements kept fully current" is good advice.

Case in point: some time ago, a client had sought to renege on his "finder's fee" obligation to me. He had his attorney contact me to inform me that he was under no obligation to pay me any compensation because our written agreement had not been updated to include a specific customer (to whom I introduced him) which ended up buying his company. The disagreement wasn't over whether I had introduced them, but whether we had agreed to include them as a customer in our contract. While the contract had not in fact, been updated to include this customer, my attorney
helpfully informed his that I posessed extensive e-mail documentation that clearly showed that his client had agreed to add this cusotmer. At that point, they reversed course. While we settled the case, I had to incur the expense of a lawyer and accept a lesser amount than I should have had the written contract been kept fully current. Lesson learned. 

This experience and some others have taught me that especially when the propsect of a big money deal draws near, a well-crafted business agreement kept fully current can help prevent some unpleasant situations. Don't be in a rush to start work and wait for the "paperwork to catch up. 

Business agreements represent the memorialization of understanding between the parties. A well-crafted agreement that is unambiguous and clearly worded will help ensure smooth business sailing.

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