Sarah Fox, director at 500 Words Ltd, collaborated with award-winning local practice: Raynes Architecture Ltd (now Pride Road Ltd), to improve their contract processes, and revise their terms and conditions.

Background

Raynes Architecture was a small architectural practice, started 5 years ago by Lisa Raynes, which specialises in domestic house extensions. It is based in South Manchester and much of its work is with wealthy individuals with high expectations of both architectural and ‘backroom’ services.

As a small but growing practice, simple but effective processes are critical to ensure time can be spent with clients and not on paperwork. With most of their clients being individuals with no knowledge of the building industry or processes – never mind jargon and legal technicalities – Raynes Architecture understood how important it was to ensure its terms and conditions were in a language its clients could easily read and understand. The practice was determined to get rid of any small print and produce a fair contract for its clients.

500 Words’ Role

Sarah Fox liaised closely with Lisa Raynes to review the detailed provisions of the existing T&C. Lisa and Sarah discussed RIBA domestic standard forms and T&C used by similar practices as benchmarks. Sarah clarified the legislative and professional standards to include. The aim was to ensure that both the practice’s contract processes and its terms were consistent with high quality advice, simple to use and demonstrated their expertise.

Sarah reviewed a variety of the practice’s client documents and processes, giving general guidance and arranged a half-day workshop to revise, debate and revamp Raynes Architecture’s T&C on the spot. Raynes Architecture did not want a set of “cast-iron T&C” to protect them from every client issue or to avoid all claims in the future. The aim was to create T&C containing some simple ground rules to form the basis of a trusting relationship between the practice and its clients. The overall objective was to help make doing business easier and reduce the paperwork burden.

The Challenges

Raynes Architecture wanted their T&C to reflect its 100% record in obtaining planning permission, its team approach to client work and to ensure the objectives of its clients were properly recorded in each individually tailored agreement with each client.

Lisa was asked to highlight the critical aspects of Raynes Architecture’s existing conditions, reconsider some of the existing terms, and delete terms which did not work as intended. The expertise of both lawyer and architect was drawn on to reduce the existing series of documents into a single user-friendly proposal which the Raynes Architecture team could easily and quickly complete.

The Outcome

Before the change to Raynes Architecture’s T&C, their conversion rate from fee proposals was a cause for concern. Since the new proposal has been introduced, this rate has dramatically improved.

In addition, the time spent on preparing proposals has reduced by an incredible 75%. Lisa said

My contract process has been simplified and I’m much more confident in the legality of my terms and conditions. As a small business, streamlining my processes is a key priority to allow me to spend more time with my clients, not on paperwork. My T&C are not just a legal document but are a key part of my sales process as it shows our professional expertise and values as a practice. I no longer find this part of my business intimidating.”