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“A contract has two main parts that should be spelled out: exactly what you are getting and exactly what you are giving for it. Those two elements are the purpose of the contract. There may be other parts of the contract to set jurisdiction and take care of other legal formalities, but those two parts should be absolutely clear. If they are not clear, if you do not understand these aspects of the contract, it is not yet time to sign.” — H. Sherman Rundles
Sherm Rundles has been one of my Mentors. He is from a generation before mine, just eight months younger than my mother. He “retired” twenty-some years ago from his corporate job and devoted himself to running the side businesses he and his wife had. When I talked to him about a month ago, he was happy to report that in his retirement and nearing eighty, he has finally gotten his workload almost down to sixty hours per week. I learned a lot from him, not only when we were working together, but later as I would visit him at his small business locations where he still holds court. Sherm is a no-nonsense guy. He thinks most things are simple, and the truth is that he’s right.
As I had my own businesses over the last twenty years, I found that his advice was sound, so much so that I am always amazed when I run into someone who doesn’t think that way. For instance, for a time, I was back with a major mega-corp as a consultant. The fellow who was the principal consultant that I was working with didn’t really know what he was talking about at least half the time. He loved using buzz-words, but couldn’t really define them. I was a little reluctant to get involved in yet another engagement with this guy, but then I saw the contract. It was a beautiful contract. It was a gorgeous contract. It spelled everything out perfectly. It said just what we would do and how we would do it. I went into my first meeting with the client with a spring in my step. We were going to do what was really needed, and we were going to do it right.
One of the first things the client said was, “We don’t really want to do that.”
“What? Then why did you sign that contract?” I asked in a severe state of stupefaction.
“Well, we know we want to do business with you, we just don’t want to do this.”
Now, the contract terms, length, and consulting resources gathered for the project had been based on the contract, but why should that bother them? We wound up serving them well, although we did not give them the answers they wanted and expected. We also out-and-out told them they were doing the wrong things for their continued viability. Still, they were happy to do business with us.
Have any tales of contracts and broken hearts to tell? This is the conversation in which to do it.Published in