Your Contract is Not Your Contract Process

Lots of clients come to me the same way: “Hey, Josh. We need a new contract.” I ask lots of questions and we get a new contract in place, no problem.

But more often than not, the businesses I see need both

* a better contract, and
* a better contract process.

What’s a contract process you ask? It’s everything from first contact with a prospective client through collecting the last dollar for the last piece of work. Distinguish that from the simple act of contracting: getting the contract in front of your client and signed.

Sure, getting the client signed up is an important piece, but without a good process, the benefits of a “bulletproof” contract may be lost. Or worse, that fancy contract you had your lawyer draft (you had your lawyer draft it, right?), never gets signed in the first place. That’s not the contract’s fault. That’s your contract process at fault.

So what does contract process mean? For me, process touches on issues such as:

* considering a client’s uniquenesses
* how and when fromal contract documents like a proposal, terms and conditions, statement of work, etc. are presented to a client
* distinguishing between your work process and your obligations
* how inbound contracts are handled and negotiated
* communicating with your client about key terms in the contract throughout a relationship
* teaching your client how to be a good client (I hear there is a good book on the subject)
* Dealing with client that breaks a contract (in large and small ways)
* Change order (aka scope creep) management
* Project / phase approval and launch
* Collections

Lots of stuff there, and we’ll tackle those in future posts. But for now, if you are having problems with your contract, consider also whether you might have a breakdown in your contract process.