The Best Business Advice I Ever Received
I have always believed in the power of the written word. Long before I became a writer, a profession where a love for words is a prerequisite, I learned a very important lesson from my father:
Get it in writing.
As he passed down business and life lessons around the dinner table, “Get it in writing” always permeated his stories.
Called a business to get help with a problem? Good for you! Write down the name of the person you spoke with so you can reference later if their end of the bargain isn’t fulfilled. Specifics matter when bringing a case of complaint.
That person told you they would do XYZ? Ok, ask them to send you an email (when email became a thing at least) confirming it so you have it in writing.
Got a job offer? Woo hoo! Get it in writing.
My dad didn’t put a lot of stock, or his financial future, in the hands of promises uttered over a phone. He got it in writing and advised me to approach things in the same way. This proved to be uber beneficial when starting a business by enabling me to avoid the issue many entrepreneurs run into early on: getting paid.
Yep. I always have been paid for the work I do because, you guessed it: I got it in writing.
Who should sign a contract?
Everyone. I mean everyone signs a contract before you begin work. If you want your entrepreneurial endeavors to be taken seriously and viewed as a legitimate business, you need to treat them like one and NOT like a hobby.
That means everyone, even your best friend since you were 10 years old, should have a contract when it comes to working together. Contracts matter. Not only are they legally binding, should the need to enforce it with lawyers come into play, they are a clear, non-emotional way to outline the expectations of each party involved.
I believe some of the biggest issues we run into in business can all be traced back to mismanaged expectations. Contracts take all the emotion out of what someone “thought you meant” and outline it exactly as it is in terms that each person must sign before anyone starts work.
Read that again:
Each person must sign before anyone begins work.
Too many times I have seen entrepreneurs start a business relationship with a handshake or a “oh he/she is a good friend, they’ll pay me.” They go into it feeling they are working with a friend and that person goes into it thinking they hired a professional to work for them. Very different points of view. Very different expectations. Mismanagement Central and issues are bound to arise.
I’ve also heard the objections like “I think they may get offended if I ask them to sign a contract.” No friend they won’t. It’s all about how you position it and that should be focused on the protection of each of you.
Saying something along the lines of “So excited to work together! I’ll send over the contract so we’re both on the same page and then we can get going,” is both professional and friendly. You don’t need to forget that you are friends and go all robot-esque on them, but you do need to act like the professional and BUSINESS OWNER (not hobbyist) that you are and keep both of you protected.
The fastest way to sink a friendship is to work together without being clear about what each of you is expecting from the other.
And how do we do that? That’s right: get it in writing!
(Need help with contracts? I have a few referrals for great small business attorneys who can help you get your paperwork in order ASAP. Email me and I’ll send them over.)