Always get EVERYTHING in Writing!
Running even a small business comes with a lot of dealing with customers, contracts, suppliers, and many types of people. Always look for the best people to deal with, trust that these people will deliver what was agreed upon, but make sure that everything is put into writing. Take time to put every transaction detail into writing before coming up with any agreement. Reading each contract thoroughly and negotiating amendments if necessary should be your guideline before signing any piece of paper for your business. Doing this does not mean that you are being being less dynamic and forward thinking, because having a contract not only protects your business, it protects the other party and keeps you accountable too.
In my previous article, “Protect yourself from your competitors and from the leaches.” I stressed the importance of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). There will be times that in order to maximise the marketability of your business, you will need to collaborate with other parties. Always make sure that these “outsiders” sign an NDA. Aside from an NDA, patent or copyright your products as soon as protection of intellectual property becomes important. By doing so, you are securing legal ownership of your intellectual property & products. This way, your new business idea is protected from competitors who might be able to get ahead of you by implementing your ideas.
In business, it is important to keep yourself organized, especially in terms of all your documents and transactions. Filing each and every document for all your transactions is not overkill. Funny as it is, peoples’ memories sometimes change—what you think you remember and what others remember may be two entirely different things. If you are able to secure transaction documents, you can easily present a proof of what you agreed to.
You’ll never know when or if you will need to dig in those files, but just to be sure, secure these documents. Words uttered can never be taken back, but what is in writing will always be something to look back on if needed.
If it’s not in writing, it’s not a deal. Email can be enough, but a one page contract signed by both parties is more binding and far more effective long term. It’s very easy to forget what has been agreed, and it’s even easier to get your wires crossed.
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