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Dot your i’s and cross your t’s
By Barry Lee Cummings, owner of Maximum Net Gain.
December 8, 2013 12:46 by kippreport
This month has been one of those months, as an entrepreneurial spirit, where opportunity has come knocking.
I am a big supporter of focus and getting something finished before moving onto the next thing, but I also advocate looking at opportunities as they come your way. The trick is to not be distracted by the ‘shiny object syndrome’ and take time to evaluate it based on your own principles of what a good opportunity might look like for you and your company.
In the process of evaluating new opportunities, I have also had the chance to review some older relationships that have served both parties well for the past 12 months or so. It was in reviewing one particular relationship that I realised, somewhere along the line, that we had stopped working on the same page.
As with many things in business it came down to numbers. I had my worth at a higher figure than they did, even though to begin with I thought we had agreed on the same figure for specific situations. I firmly remember the conversations about this, as I was quite clear about the circumstances under which we could work together.
My mistake? Not putting the agreement in writing, signing and stamping it. Although, I do have an email that touches on the subject matter – it isn’t 100 per cent clear in supporting my standpoint. I didn’t have anything that I could categorically refer to showing that this agreement was in place.
As I didn’t have that irrefutable proof (the email wasn’t enough in my eyes, so I didn’t reference it in the end), I doubted myself and the conversation that I was sure had taken place. I’m not usually one for self-doubt, but in this case, I actually succumbed and said that we must have agreed that my worth was less than I thought.
The moral of the story is to ‘cross your t’s and dot your i’s’ when it comes to business relationships. I have advised many people who ask me about setting up their own business on this very point. Whatever you do (especially if you are going into business relationships with people you consider friends), get everything – the set-up, the agreement, the divide, the payments – down in writing. It’s a sad state of affairs, but unfortunately money changes everything.
This applies to the internal parties within your business, as well as any strategic partnerships you may look to enter into when moving your business forward. As I see it, there are three simple steps:
1. Discuss and agree what is going to happen, what everyone’s responsibilities and deliverables are, and remuneration.
2. Put everything down in writing – this is essential from a legal standpoint, but having a document that has all the involved parties’ signatures is usually enough to prove or disprove a point further down the line.
3. Sign the document, stamp it if you want to and ideally ensure it’s legally binding. Then keep a copy of it in a physical folder, on your dropbox, in your cloud and on a backup hard drive, that way you always have access to it, should you need it. Even if it’s not a legal document, people’s signatures on a document act as their bond and this will help resolve situations along the line.
The problem is that we all know this, it’s not rocket science, just common sense really, but sometimes the excitement of starting a new project or company takes over and the detail gets forgotten.
Luckily, I am happy to report that there is a happy ending to my little episode. After a number of delays in email communications, phone calls, self doubt, anger at myself for not being thorough to begin with and having held up my hands and admitted I must have been mistaken, I received a communication saying that actually I was right and was worth what I had said I was originally. While I’m relieved that it has been successfully resolved, a signed agreement in the first place could have avoided all of the stress and angst. You live and learn.