You can have the best contract in the world, but if it is hard to get agreed, signed or to find, then it is not much use in managing your business relationships. You need a contract process that is a simple and positive experience for you and your clients/suppliers.
Simplifying the process
Although I want you to adopt positive processes that will make your contracting easier, first check which of the 7 Habits of Highly Defective Contract Strategies you need to stop doing! Your contracts shouldn’t create a headache for anyone using them.
A positive process will pass three key tests:
- can anyone in your business quickly and accurately create a contract?
- can your clients/suppliers sign it immediately and easily?
- once signed, can it be accessed from anywhere on a handheld device?
If you want to reduce the time taken to create each bespoke contract, then gathering all the options, project-specific information and blanks to be completed in one simple table at the front of the contract is a good first step. You want your contract to be easy to fill in. An example of simple content in a poor format was the 2012 Federation of Master Builders’ contracts – each page had multiple options to fill in, details to complete, clauses to strike in/out. The information about the project was spread across 18 pages!
Assuming you can fill in the contract without needing a degree in rocket science, you also need ways to sign the contract which do not depend on paper, printing, scanning and emailing. Electronic signatures or email acceptances are valid under English law and generally far more traceable than paper-based wet-signatures.
Once the contract is agreed and signed, then the parties need to be able to access it so they comply with it. If the only copy is in an office filing cabinet then the nuances of your contract will be lost and forgotten. Each party will simply do what they can remember. Being able to get a copy on a smartphone is essential to making contracting easy.
What should you do?
A positive process should ensure your paperwork doesn’t let your business down. Decide which of these aspects you can change to make it easier to create contracts, and reduce contracting process headaches.