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Business Contracts: Protection is Your Power

— March 8, 2024

Every one of these clauses is a shield. Sometimes, the best protection is knowing the dangers to protect against in the first place.

Imagine your business is a house. You’ve spent years building it—time, sweat, maybe a few tears—you’ve poured it all in. A contract is like the insurance policy on that house. If something goes wrong—a fire, a break-in—you’re covered. If not, you could lose everything.

Too many businesses treat contracts as either an afterthought or a scary legal minefield. They shouldn’t be. A solid contract is a tool, pure and simple. It protects you AND makes your work smoother.

Essential Elements: What Needs to Be There

Every contract will be different, but there are core elements to cover for maximum protection:

  • The Basics:
    • Parties Involved – Full names, business names, contact info
    • Goods and/or Services Provided – Precise, detailed descriptions
    • Payment Terms – When, how much, installment, or one-time deal? Be clear!
    • Start and End Dates for the Agreement – Include any option to renew
  • Performance Clause: This is the heart of the contract – “I do this, you do that”.
    • Deadlines for deliverables
    • Quality standards
  • Termination Rights: How can the agreement be ended by anyone involved?
    • What happens if someone cancels or doesn’t deliver as promised?
  • “Oops, We Have a Problem” Section: (Also called a Dispute Resolution clause)
    • Will you try negotiation first? What about mediation or arbitration?
    • If the dispute lands in court, which state’s laws govern the conflict?

Know Your Non-Negotiables

Before talking to another party, determine what’s absolutely vital to you and what terms simply won’t work. For example, if your business can’t function without payment within 30 days, don’t offer 60-day terms to look generous. Knowing what you will NOT compromise on makes negotiations smoother.

Beware of Hidden Traps

  • “Boilerplate” Language: That’s legalese for standard clauses reused over and over. While convenient, these can contain terms unfavorable to you. Review even the boilerplate carefully.
  • Excessive Limitations of Liability: Sometimes, a party will try to limit their financial responsibility if something goes wrong. Do the limits proposed make it too risky for you?
  • Automatic Renewal: Contracts that auto-renew without you taking action can trap you into agreements you no longer want.

Protection Beyond the Basics

A basic contract? It gets the job started. But smart business owners protect themselves with a broader mindset. They think less like lawyers and more like risk analysts.

Picture someone with an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice. They don’t deal with the crimes themselves but with the systems around them. They see how things can go wrong and how to spot vulnerabilities that can hurt a business.

That’s the mindset to bring to your contracts. Here’s how:

  • Confidentiality: The lifeblood of some businesses.  Customer lists, secret formulas, etc.  Don’t leave this to chance. Be specific in your contracts about what can’t be shared.
  • Non-compete: It’s about fairness. Can someone you train walk off and compete the next day? Consult an attorney, but consider if it’s right for your situation.
  • Intellectual Property: Who owns what? This gets messy FAST. Spell out ownership of any designs, writing, etc., created under the deal.
  • Insurance Requirements: A bad accident can bankrupt you. Make sure anyone working with you is covered, especially on your property.

This isn’t fear-mongering. It’s future-proofing. Every one of these clauses is a shield. Sometimes, the best protection is knowing the dangers to protect against in the first place.

Lawyer-Up or Do It Yourself?

Lawyer preparing a file; image by advogadoaguilar, via
Lawyer preparing a file; image by advogadoaguilar, via

Simple agreements for low-stakes situations can often be handled with online forms. Yet, it’s easy to miss things. For complex contracts, those with high financial value, or where you feel out of your depth, an attorney specializing in business contracts provides invaluable peace of mind. Think of it as an investment, not just a cost. A lawyer can also be an asset in the negotiation, especially if the other side has legal representation.

Conclusion: Smart Contracts = Smart Business

A well-written contract aligns expectations and minimizes misunderstandings. It’s NOT about distrustfulness—it’s about professionalism. Aim for a cooperative spirit—contracts work best when they’re fair to everyone involved. If done right, contracts empower you to focus on your work, and that’s the path to success, whether you’re a freelancer or growing an enterprise.

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