Career Coaching: Contracting. When a business of project fails It’s rarely down to the quality of the skill or the service. It is usually the lack of business-like behaviour that has the provider on the floor. You may be really skilled, gifted and talented but that counts for very little if your business protocols and contracts are not in place.
Several people have come to work with me who state the contracting process directly as the problem. A senior employee who when she had problems within her role when she revisited her contract realised she had missed something. In hindsight mean she would not have accepted that role at all. Many individuals who show up saying “I didn’t get paid for the work”. When I say “ what did your contract specify” the response is often “ well we just kind of agreed on it verbally”. In effect, there had been no contract at all.
“…a contract has so many layers of importance…”
For something relatively simple, a contract has so many layers of importance. Firstly, signed and dated by both parties it stands as a legal document in this country. That means that a mere piece of paper protects both the provider and recipient of the job. The piece of work or the project under UK law. That’s a powerful tool to have.
“A contract also makes a strong statement.”
A contract also makes a strong statement. It makes it clear that you take yourself and what you provide seriously. In itself, it shows that you have value and that you value what you provide. People really do follow us where we lead them. If we demonstrate that we have belief in our project, our value as an employee or as a service provider, then others believe in is too. That’s a great feedback loop to be in. It means we are face to face with people who already believe in us. That way we can believe in ourselves a little bit more each time too.
The power in that tool means each party needs to be very clear regarding what exactly is being provided and received. Dates, times, costs, what recourse there is for each party should things not go to plan. Thinking of the worst-case scenario when writing or signing a contract is one of the best ways of focusing each signatory on whether what you are agreeing to is actually possible. Add that 10% flexibility on the project delivery date. Ensure the role is achievable with those caveats in place. Read the small print and think through the consequences. What will happen if it all goes tits up? Whi is liable if the service can’t be provided or your employer’s business goes bankrupt?
If like me you were educated for the career for life then you might not be so vigilant on checking out the small print. I think it’s foolhardy to just sign a contract on the grounds that you were taught to trust authority. It turns out all too often that ‘Authority’ didn’t know what they were talking about after all!
“Assumptions are the mother of all fuck-ups”
The physical contract takes us to the psychological contract. Always talk through the written contract where possible. This exploration exposes misconceptions or the most unexpected misunderstandings. If I say ‘Wednesday’ in a contract, I might mean ‘by close of play’. The purchaser might understand me to mean ‘first thing’ from those very same words. “Assumptions are the mother of all fuck-ups”. We all assume things, especially when we are assuming we don’t. It is SO much easier to expose these differing perceptions at the outset of a project than discover them in the middle and have to fight it out then.
No contract is ever foolproof. However, investing a little in contacting as tightly as you can before you begin a job, a project or providing your service, can save years of litigation at the other end of the process.
Value yourself and what you provide. Agree on the contact: I Dare You!