A Better Business in 15 Minutes
Today’s advice on how to improve your business goes right back to the old adage:
What’s the best way to eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
My challenge to you is to take 15 minutes a day, and read through one of your contracts.
It can be one where you’ve been hired, or where you’ve done the hiring. I’d recommend starting with one that you would consider important to your business – whether it be a high dollar value, long-term engagement or a high profile client.
You’re going to take 15 minutes a day to read through and make notes in plain English of what it says.
Because knowledge is power.
There are 5 key questions you’ll need to answer:
1) What do I need to do?
2) What does the other guy need to do?
3) How much do I need to pay/be paid? When? How?
4) Who owns what?
5) What happens if something goes wrong?
How will this help your business?
Achieve peak performance
By knowing exactly what you have to deliver to a client, you’ll avoid those sticky situations of accidentally missed deadlines or off-kilter deliverables. As a client, if you’re crystal clear on what you’ll be receiving and when, you can hold your coach, designer or other service provider to that.
Add to your arsenal
If a payment is delayed, the first approach to collecting it is usually a nice friendly reminder. Next, maybe a bit of a firmer approach. But by knowing exactly where to find the payment terms in your contract, you’re adding a sweeeeet tool to your business owner’s toolkit: supporting your request with legal documentation. “Payment was due on May 1st, per Section 7.2 of our contract” is just so much more effective than “Pay me!”
Assess the risks
It may be too late to change this particular contract, but by reading it from start to finish you’ll find sections that aren’t really working for you. When these create risks for you, your business, or your flow of operations – you’ll know to change them for next time. (Once burned, twice shy, right?)
Here are some resources to get you started:
Legal Dictionary: My go-to is Black’s. The 2nd edition is public domain and online, but for more recent versions you’re best to head to your local library.
Glossary: Though not the most user-friendly, the sample contract from AIGA contains explanations on what each section means, including what the more jargony expressions are in layman’s terms.
Glossary: The overview at Business Balls is solid. Easier to use, but perhaps not as well-suited if you’re in a creative field.
Email A Friend: If you’re still stumped, send a note my way. I’d love to dip in and see what sense I can make of that section of language for you!
*Note: Even though I'm comfortable reading legal docs and sharing my insights, I'm not a legal professional. I recommend consulting with a licensed attorney.