Small Business Advice
by Marilyn Miller
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none” – William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well
Take for example the way they step out into a crosswalk, trusting that drivers are paying attention and will stop for them. That is a ton of trust!
Trust is essential in all relationships, but it is especially important in business. You would certainly not take on a customer with someone if you knew you could not trust them, but oftentimes, we do not have enough information on a new customer to make much of a decision.
Therefore, a contract that clearly outlines the terms and conditions of your relationship is always a good idea. Here are some areas your customer contract should have:
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that a contract is a negative tool, and that you will scare customers away if you ask them to agree with your terms. On the contrary, if you can begin working with a client and both know the rules of the game, you are bound to succeed.
Begin a relationship with open and clear communications about how the business relationship will work. A customer contract is a positive and proactive tool that can protect you in the case of a dispute, or can also be used to assist with collection of the debt if the customer does not pay for your product of services.
Depending on your business, you may need only a short agreement or a long detailed contractual document.
I know a small plumbing business that takes an order from a new customer and immediately confirms their terms in an email to the customer before they do the work – price, minimum charge, and payment terms. Even if you simply email basic details of your arrangement to your customer, something is better than nothing.
A basic contract will not cost you much at all, and it will save you tons. Ask your attorney to prepare a contract for you today – it will be the best investment you make all year.
Marilyn “Mara” Miller is committed to small businesses. For over a decade, she has been a strong advocate for her clients. She not only helps customers recover money due to them, but also works to strengthen their credit practices and procedures.
Marilyn is founder of M3 Consultants, which helps small business owners improve their cash flow through better credit practices.