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How strong is your business contract?

One of the most important elements of a successful business is a solid contract. A contract is the safety net of a business because it contains the vital details of an agreement between you and another party.

A poorly constructed contract can leave you open to lawsuits and damage your reputation as a business owner. A well-drafted contract can allow you to do business smoothly and improve your chances that customers will return to you. While the specific contents of a contract will vary with each type of business transaction, there are certain factors common to all contracts.

What is in a contract?

If you are doing business with a relative or a long-time customer, you may think a written contract is unnecessary. However, getting the terms of your agreement in writing may preserve those relationships and avoid hard feelings. As you put your agreement on paper, here are some tips advisors recommend:

  • Include the rights and responsibilities of both parties with clear detail, including dates.
  • Make written amendments for any verbal changes.
  • Specify how much, when and how you expect payment for your services.
  • List any reasons why it may be acceptable to terminate the contract and the consequences for breaching the contract, such as non-payment.
  • Address as many contingencies that you can think of and how you or the other party should address them.

You want the terms of your contract to use language all parties can easily understand, avoiding legalese or ambiguous terms.

Preparing for a dispute

The whole purpose of a contract is to have proof of the terms of the agreement. However, even with a contract, one party may remember differently or have a different interpretation of the language in the document. This is why your contract may be incomplete unless you include details about how you and the other party will resolve any conflicts, for example a requirement to seek a resolution through mediation instead of a lawsuit.

Depending on your line of work, there may be other elements that would benefit you if you included them in your standard contract. Florida laws may apply to your business in ways that affect your agreement, and it would be wise to ask an attorney to review your contracts to ensure it offers the most complete protection for your business.

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