Play It Safe – Put It In Writing
Business owners are exposed to all kinds of legal concerns and issues.
Despite the best of intentions, nothing ends up as simple as it seemed in the beginning. Combine that with the human weakness of forgetfulness it is not difficult to see the benefit of recording just about everything that is agreed upon with others, from employees to partners to distributors, in writing.
Writing things down, clearly and completely, avoids misunderstandings from the start and protects parties if something goes wrong later.
The best time to prepare a written agreement is at the beginning of a deal or relationship – long before any problems start to appear.
That way parties be can be objective, when they are just talking about theoretical possibilities and no specific details or feelings are involved. Try to anticipate how problems will be solved if things do not work out.
Whilst the days of doing business with just a handshake may not be entirely over, doing so creates risk. Society has become very litigious, and the best way to avoid ending up in hot water or court is to have things spelled out long before any problems arise.
In simple circumstances at least take the minimum steps of taking the minutes of the discussion and provide every person participating with a copy.
For anything complicated – or where stock, company ownership, or large sums of money are involved – consult a solicitor.
Be careful, if parties decide to go it alone and write their own agreements. What seems simple may turn into a minefield if it needs to be interpreted by a third party who was not part of the initial discussions, such as in a courtroom.
Professional costs to prevent problems become insignificant compared to costs for damage control and resolving disputes.