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The comfort of contracts, lets KISS and make up

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by Startacus Admin

Jo Haigh returns with a blog post on the importance of contracts, litigation and keeping it simple...

I hate long and complex agreements. I have neither the patience nor the time to read all the very small print, and even with my glasses on and a magnifying glass I struggle to actually see.

As a result I admit I have signed more than one contract that I simply have taken on good faith as being contract agreementsacceptable. To date, I have had the odd surprise particularly recently on a storage agreement where I have been caught with a year’s notice when I decided I wanted to exit!!!

On the other side of the table, because of my abhorrence of complex contacts, I had kept my own client engagement terms very simple. For 24 years and on 300 plus transactions I have never had a problem, so I guess I have been fortunate. However last year I had my very first and I hope my very last contractual dispute.

Very unpleasant all round emotionally and financially. As a result I spent several thousand pounds having a lawyer rewrite my T & C’s which now have lots of small print (although the type face is point 12!).

This has meant far more negotiation with clients on these finer points that, by and large, are hugely unlikely to ever materialise, at least if my historical experience is anything to go by BUT sadly last year litigation was the catalyst for this change.

When we start our businesses we are usually not thinking particularly about dispute resolution! In fact I never expect anything to go wrong and I am frankly surprised when stuff does go wrong.

A positive attitude is a good thing and in any case I can't change who I am BUT business and self-preservation has meant I now have more robust contacts than ever before. Do I feel “safer”? Honestly I feel the same, but what I do believe is that I have perhaps got a tighter control on the very unlikely possibility that something may go wrong in the future.

What comes to mind is the warning that the air hostess gives out about evacuation procedures “in the very unlikely event etc”.

Contractual litigation is of course not uncommon and so maybe I have just been lucky historically. The fact is most people don't want things to go wrong from either side of the table so it’s therefore sensible to get agreement correct from the start.

You can of course create these agreements yourself even, dare I say it plagiarise others but I think its money well spent to get a professional to write your contractual terms and T & C’s.

I still personally believe in KISS (keep it simple stupid) but an expert eye is still a necessity.

Jo Haigh is a Partner at fds Corporate Finance and Cracking Boards and is the winner of the Sunday Times NED of the year award, Claridge’s 14th March 2013. Her latest book: The Keys to the Boardroom, how to get there and how to stay there, due for release October 2013. Email: Telephone: 01924 376784 / 01484 860501

If you would like to read more of Jo's posts check out 
Hamsters are just rats with positive PR

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Published on: 1st October 2013

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