Author Topic: "First, kill all the lawyers" - William Shakespeare (paraphrased)  (Read 7689 times)

precisonline

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My friends, I write to you today with a heavy heart.  A few weeks ago I wrote how I have the best customers in the world, and it remains as true today as it did then.  I've never had a single problem with disputes, collections, or any of the other kinds of things that seem to be typical in business, and my customers are as close of friends as one could ever have.  All good, right?  Well, not quite.

While I have a standard contract that is available for any customer that requires such formality, I've rarely needed it.  Most of the business here is done on a "hello and a handshake" and by all indications, it's been amazingly effective.  Despite that effectiveness, some legal departments still find it necessary to get my agreement on their contracts, which are more often than not lopsided in their favor.  It's not that I'm worried about the paperwork - I still believe that honesty and integrity are the most effective tools in business - but frankly, it's a sorry state of affairs when a contract basically states that the client company can do anything and be held harmless, but the vendor (i.e. me) would be in breach for even the most mundane of nonperformance (like missing a 10-day window for submitting written changes to the "specification of materials").  Let's be real here, I do online training and consulting services, there are no "materials" to speak of.  So yes, it's a meaningless clause, but it's just one more example of the lopsidedness of this document sitting in front of me right now.

While it could be argued that my "business on a handshake" is a legal nightmare waiting to happen, I happen to like the simplicity of being able to solve someone's problem or address a need without having to rely upon my own highly trained (and equally highly priced) legal counsel for EVERY LITTLE THING.  And call me crazy, but I think the customers are pretty happy about it as well, knowing that they can get excellent service on a great timeline without a lot of overhead or interference.

Okay, so here's my bottom line.  Being able to do business without this overhead and/or interference has made it very easy to keep rates that are consistently below the market.  And having wasted an hour reviewing this lopsided document, there's an hour of my life I'll never get back, nor get paid for.  So looking to the future, one of two things is going to have to happen; either:

a) I'm going to have to charge customers for the time and overhead of reviewing and ratifying lopsided contracts, and/or;
b) My rates are going to have to be adjusted - likely substantially for those customers who have these contracts - to compensate for the overhead and the commensurate risk.

Frankly, I don't want to do either but at some point I may have to do both.  I can no longer accept the standard practice of being raped both time-wise and legally by stupid one-sided contracts.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2008, 02:38:39 PM by precisonline »
-Kevin
Accidents "happen"; success, however, is planned and executed.