Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Negotiations – Why Isn’t It A Two-Way Street

As a consultant – a contractor – I work under the terms of a contract. A contract is supposed to be a legally binding piece of paper, which sets out the terms and conditions acceptable to all parties involved.

Why is it then, most clients insist on contracts which aren’t acceptable to all parties involved?

Lawyers create this agreement – which is probably why no one likes ‘em. Lawyers look out only for themselves and their client’s best interests.

But if lawyers were really looking out for their client’s best interests, they’d be open to creating balanced contracts – ones which take into account the needs of all parties involved.

After receiving a contract from a potential client, I always make suggestions as to changes – I have yet to see a contract which is completely balanced and truly in keeping with the spirit of satisfying all parties involved.

Depending on how well a potential client receives my suggestions, will determine if, and for how long they are a client. If the client outright rejects any possible changes, then chances are, I won’t sign the contract as is, and they will have to find another consultant. If the client is – as most are – open to some of the changes – then I’ll probably take them on for a short-term arrangement, to see how things work out. If they are open to all changes, then the sky is the limit.

Still, it always amazes me how biased and unbalanced all contracts are – until I get my changes. Lawyers do write these things; with the intent do protect their client’s – of which I am not. However, once I begin consulting for someone, in a sense, I become a vital part of that company’s team – for the length of the contract/project. Wouldn’t it make sense Mr. Bigshot Lawyer to then create a more balanced agreement, one which really does look out for your client’s best interests?

If I simply signed away on the dotted line without making any changes, I’d probably be placing all parties at considerable risk – which isn’t what the lawyer’s who wrote the original contract had intended.

There are all sorts of tricks sneaky people attempt, to try and get their way in a contract. I’ve heard of executives at some big name automaker actually take people to a strip club to sign the final deal. The other mostly-male executives, are so distracted by the strippers, they don’t notice slight changes in some of the terms of the contract, and sign off on something, they probably shouldn’t have in the first place.

Then there are those who are just – well – wishy washy.

Contracts are funny things – once signed they are supposed to be law. Yet, after they are signed, I occasionally get a client that wants to make a change to the agreement. I usually say no – and hold them to their agreement. Negotiating the initial term is hard enough, once it is signed, further negotiations are even harder to balance out.

Also, clients that want to change something after it has already been signed indicate poor leadership from the top – and that could have adverse affects on my abilities to do my job.

But it does serve as a warning sign, one which probably will limit my time with that client to the current contract/project. Once a client has suggested changes after a contract has already been signed, the chances of me taking them on for additional contracts/projects are greatly diminished.

Would you trust someone that put a guarantee in writing, only the change later?

Me either.

No comments:

Post a Comment