If you’re in business, and you deal with other businesses, you should be reading the small print. More to the point, you should be writing the small print.
We can hear your sighs, screams and howls from here. We can see your hands thrown up into the air. We can feel the finger of suspicion accusing us of conspiring to deliver the small business community straight into the rapacious clutches of the lawyers, who are waiting with their meters running, forcing you to raid the rainy day fund that you were keeping for a blow-out at Christmas.
But hang on there: nothing could be further from the truth.
In the first place: lawyers aren’t rapacious. Well, no more so than any other section of the community.
In the second place: you don’t always have to turn to a lawyer. Most – if not all – of the normal business dealings that SMEs conduct will be done on the basis of terms and conditions that are repeated from deal to deal. This is where standard terms and conditions come in. They only have to be written once so you’d only need to pay the lawyer once.
“Why bother?” (we can also hear you muttering under your breath). “We use the other party’s Ts & Cs. They’re all much of a muchness”. Oh no they’re not.
Delivery, payment, dispute, liability, refund, cancellation – all of these things can be affected by the standard terms and conditions in a contract – the small print, so to speak. And it is not rocket science to realise that what might be good for your supplier might be less so for you. So use your own standard terms and conditions.
And here’s a thing: you don’t necessarily have to go to a lawyer anyway. There are standard forms available, or you can draft your own – which is not as scary or time consuming as it sounds.
If you follow Simplify the Law, you can decide for yourself what you want your standard terms to contain, and quickly generate a document in proper legal form.
But finally: face it – there will be times you will need, or even want, to speak to a lawyer. Maybe it’s The Deal – the one that moves your business up a level. Maybe it’s a change of direction – from selling things to supplying services. Maybe it’s your first deal with an overseas customer or supplier. For all these you might want to be sure that your deal says what you want it to say, and for that kind of thing your lawyer is one of the good guys.
However you go about it, remember that you make your operation stronger by calling the shots on the way you run it. If you want to do business on your own terms, make sure you’re the one that’s written them.