Contracts Matter. . . A Lot

Contracts Matter. . .  A Lot

“We agree, but we can’t put that into writing.”

I’ve spent 38+ years negotiating contracts . . . all sorts of contracts and agreements.

Employment Contracts. Compensation Agreements. Partnership Agreements. LLC Agreements. Severance Agreements. Board Director Service Agreements. You name it, I’ve negotiated it.

In that time, many times I’ve heard it said “We agree to that . . . but we can’t put it into writing,” for some reason or another.

In only a few of those instances have I later seen my client receive what was promised. It is all the more disappointing when the item promised – not in writing – was a central reason to enter into the contract in the first place.

I know it is often quite tempting to proceed with a deal, even though an important – even central – part of that deal is not going to be put into writing. And I respect those who choose, nonetheless, to move forward with an agreement, though a central part of the understanding is not put into writing. I admit that even I have done that, myself.

There are many reasons given for not putting an important element of an agreement into writing. They include:

    • “We are not authorized to promise that.”
    • “We don’t have the resources at hand right now.”
    • “Politically, within the organization, it would be a very tough sell.”
    • “The necessary Board Approval can’t be obtained until the fall.”
    • “We aren’t certain it’s legal to promise that.”

Well, if it can’t be openly promised now, what is going to change in the future to permit that same element to be provided?

I respect people who take risks to move forward. In fact, I admire them, because nothing of value comes without risk. But when the “reward you seek,” and is promised to you is not placed into writing, don’t be surprised, don’t be angry with others, and don’t be disappointed with yourself.

Just chalk it up to experience, and nothing is more deeply learned than through experience. There is a saying, “There are two kinds of experiences . . . those you enjoy and those you learned from.” Not received what is promised – especially when the promised provision is a central element of the contract you seek – is a true learning experience.

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