Everywhere you turn it seems that there are more and more pitfalls for your business. Open the mail and there is another notice about how your bank, credit card company or someone has changed the rules on your relationship with them. Turn on the radio and there is yet another announcement on a change in tax policy, a new regulation or a local ordinance that is going to impact your business … adversely. These days it seems as if we can’t through a single day without yet another tax, regulation or mandate.


You Can’t Prepare For Dishonesty or Laziness


Then there are the “other” entities and people with whom you do business. For example, you think you have all the bases covered with a written agreement, but then you find out a customer isn’t going to pay his bill! No problem! You’ll take him to court; after all, you have a legally binding written agreement. Then your attorney informs you that his retainer is going to be bigger than the amount you might collect from the client. Then what?


Yet another example: You decide to hire an employee, and find a candidate through a placement agency. Your understanding is that the placement agency has already performed a full background check with references, and you take the summary document from the placement agency with those verifications. Three months down the road you find out that the person not only doesn’t have a college degree, but he also has a criminal record!


You terminate the employee and go back to the placement agency to get them to honor the commitment to stand behind their “candidate.” The employment agency explains to you that the letter you signed with them doesn’t actually provide a full guarantee and the “replacement” clause only lasts 60 days. Again, the lawyer tells you it will cost more in fees and your time than you would get in suing the placement company. You are once again left holding the bag. Then to make matters worse, you find out the terminated employee has been awarded unemployment. Double whammy.


Good People, Bad Deals; Bad People, Awful Deals


Then there are the multitudes of other agreements you enter into formally and informally. If legal agreements are supposed to be preventative but are merely considered an unenforceable deterrent, how do you protect yourself? What about other transactions and activities? How can you possibly avoid the pain and agony of another bad experience?


With every transaction and business interaction, it’s important to take a look at the opportunities that are presented and the “deals” being offered. Be aware when you’re offered with a “really good deal” or a transaction in which you’re in a hurry and feel like you know the other person and can trust them. It’s crucial to pay attention in the first place to the fine print and details. How do you identify situations to avoid? How do you avoid getting the shaft?


The simple answer would be not to do deals, but that isn’t realistic. You deal with people every day. Most of them are honest, intend to follow through, and will do their best to honor the deal. Then there are the “wheeler dealers” and the “big talkers.” They could sell sand in the desert or ice at the South Pole. The problem is that it isn’t always easy to tell who is the good person, and even good people can fail to live up to the deals they make.


Shake Hands and Go to Your Corners


Sometimes, you just have to listen, observe and then test the person or company with a small deal. Set parameters for the type of people and companies you do business with. Check references, credentials, credit and any other information we can get. Put together documents that are the best you can generate. Learn about options for recourse before the deals are made. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.


The voice of experience says that no matter how careful you are ,you will have a bad deal at some point. Learn from it. Fix what you can and keep moving ahead. And remember the flipside of the situation. Don’t make deals you can’t live up to. Ultimately, your reputation is the most valuable thing you have.


Author: Lea A. Strickland, MBA CMA CFM CBM GMC

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