Expect the Unexpected: Why I don’t work without a contract

In order to gain a licence to work as an independent Management Accountant I have to do a number of things – I have to have insurance, in case I make a mistake; I have to have a contract which is about 7 pages long, and I have to have a complaints procedure and an ethics procedure.

A house in North Devon which caught fire last month after being struck by lightning... proving that things like that really do happen in real life.

A house in North Devon which caught fire last month after being struck by lightning… proving that things like that really do happen in real life.

When I meet clients I have up until now felt rather embarrassed by the fact that there is so much focus on things going wrong. The complaints procedure seems a bit silly since I am the only person in my business – if you’re not happy there’s no one else to speak to!

However, I have recently been helping a client with a tricky problem which has made me see this in a different light.

Two years ago my client started working with another consultant. They agreed terms etc in an email conversation, but never prepared a written contract to be signed.

One of the terms agreed was that after 2 years the deal would be renegotiated. Now after 2 years have passed my client wants to end the working relationship because it hasn’t delivered the results either side had hoped for, but the consultant feels they are due payment for work on projects that have not yet finished. You can probably imagine the argument that has ensued.

If only there had been a contract at the outset – it wouldn’t have prevented the relationship ending, but it would have made clear instructions as to what each party needed to do (and pay) at the end. By agreeing it at the start, when both parties are friendly it would be more likely to ensure that there was a reasonable deal for both sides.

So this experience has pointed out to me exactly why I have such a detailed contract, even though if my contract is terminated I only get 30 days notice and nothing else.

The point is that I will hopefully be able to avoid having to express all the anger and upset that typically comes at the end of a relationship. In future I’ll be more proud of my contract!

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