As you may have gathered from previous newsletters, I am fond of unusual presents especially ones where you experience something different. To add to my experience of flying a jumbo jet (in a simulator of course!), I was recently given a voucher for the more grounded thrill of learning how to carve a wooden spoon. Nowhere near as exciting I hear you say, but once our goblin-like teacher with a long wispy beard had explained that the knife we were about to use was so sharp it could in fact cut your finger off, he had my full attention!
We proceeded to start with a giant log which we honed down with the aid of a very sharp axe to the rough size of a spoon and then the whittling
started with our knives. Amazingly, as we gradually shaved off the outer bark and experimented with the various whittling techniques, the shape of a spoon began to emerge. Being a sailor at heart, I tried to emulate the hull of a boat for the bowl and surprised myself how satisfying it was to feel the round shape gradually develop due to my efforts alone. The point I am getting to is that contracts and terms of business are just the same as a lump of wood and they too can be whittled down and shaped until they are in the shape you want them to be. Many new business owners do not realise this.
I have come across several clients recently who have presented me with contracts that they have signed which were totally against them. They were virtually signing their entire business away. When I asked why on earth they had agreed to those terms, many confessed that they thought they had no choice. They were pre-printed and surely that was that. The answer, my friends, is absolutely NOT! Why do you think politicians and lawyers work through the night? Because they are negotiating the terms of a treaty or a contract with the other side and are not willing to back down until a fair deal is reached. They are whittling!
So my plea to you is that you can do the same. In any deal going forward, no matter how large or small you are, you should do the following:
- READ the contract from beginning to end ( this is your log to use the wood analogy!)
- Identify which bits you don’t like or don’t understand- the knots and bumps!
- Get out your ‘contract knife’ and chop and whittle away at them until you are happy with the terms. If you don’t know how, this is where a lawyer comes in. You tell him or her what it is you want and we do the rest.
- DO NOT SIGN until you are happy that you know and agree with the terms
Bigger businesses will often say it’s their terms or nothing else and then you have to weigh up how much you are willing to sacrifice to secure their business. You may decide it is worth it, but you should always go in with your EYES WIDE OPEN and know what it is you are committing to.
Be a savvy business owner and sharpen your knife!