There used to be a time when a hand shake sealed the deal.  This was all you needed, it was your word.  Not anymore, in today’s economy, you need to put everything in writing.  This protects not only you, but the other parties involved. We all would like to think that no one is out to get us, and most times that is the case. The problem comes in when assumptions are made. I assumed you were not going to charge me, we are friends. I assumed that was covered in the initial quote. Take the time to ask questions, and clarify who, what, where, how much.

Here are a few items, which you should always get in writing.

  1. Anytime you are working with a building/ service contractor, you need to make sure you are getting what you are paying for, and too your satisfaction.  If there is work being preformed, clearly spell it out.  There is no detail that is too small. For example, what is the thickness of installation I will be getting, or how often will the corners be vacuumed out?  You want to include a start and finish date.  With a service contract, you want to add when they should renew, or a way for either party to terminate the relationship.
  2. An employment agreement.  You want to clearly define the role the new employee is expected to fill. You don’t want to keep them guessing, they can not be held accountable if they don’t know what is expected of them. Be sure and include any special projects or tasks they will be working on.  What are their hours, and days they will work?  Again make sure you add insalary, potential bonuses or stock options.
  3. Dealing with a sales contract?  If you are buying a product, or many products, you want to ensure that you are protected.  What if the product comes to you damaged?  Can it be returned, and if so who is responsible for the cost?  Include a guaranteed date of delivery.  If it arrives after the delivery date, are you still expected to take delivery?

You want to make sure both parties are satisfied with what they are singing. Once signed you only have three business days to back out of any deal. If at any point, you are having doubts or concerns, renegotiate your contract, or cancel it all together.   Without getting it in writing, you can cause a lot of unnecessary problems; you could loose a client or friendship.

Originally published in the Democrat & Chronicle on October 2nd, 2013.