Writing it Down: 2 It's All About the Relationship

Every profitable business is a complex web of relationships. Think about it. Common relationships on which a thriving business is based include:


Co-Owners (shareholders, partners, members)




Business-Regulators (taxing authorities, licensing boards)


Networking partners

Of course, there are more. On the most basic level, a business cannot exist without customers, and a business will not last long without strong customer relationships. Every profitable business is built on a web of thriving relationships. Relationships are strong when everyone is on the same page, expectations are clear and realistic, and the parties trust each other to do what each has agreed to do.


Relationships deteriorate when everyone is not on the same page, expectations are ambiguous or unrealistic, or someone fails to keep a promise. Many times, misunderstandings between parties cause or contribute to the deterioration of otherwise healthy relationships. Misunderstandings happen for a number of reasons – many of which are avoidable. A common cause of misunderstanding is the failure to accurately describe a task to be performed. Who will do what by when, and how will it be done?

Details may be assumed differently by various parties when the details are not written down. For example, John hires Dan to paint a wall. The two negotiate a price and a time for completion. Dan paints the wall. John refuses to pay full price because Dan did not prime the wall before painting it. A critical item was not discussed. Dan assumed the wall did not need priming because it was not discussed. John assumed that any painter would prime the wall first. Now, everyone is dissatisfied.

Had the two written down the terms of their agreement, they may have uncovered the missing information in time to clarify and correct. This example uses a very simple agreement. In reality, the more complicated an agreement is, the more terms and details are needed, and the more steps toward completion of each party’s agreed tasks, the more critical it is to write everything down.

Dan and John did not need a lawyer or fancy language to write their agreement. Their agreement could have been in the form of a work order signed by both of them. It seems obvious that a written agreement would have helped them avoid conflict and would have led to a better working relationship. So, why do we resist writing things down? My next post will explore our propensity to rely on a handshake over pen and paper.

Writing It Down: Series 1 Enforcing An Oral Contract

Lately, I’ve been a single question several times.

How do you enforce an oral contract?

Answer: It’s difficult but often not impossible.

The question actually raises questions: how are you going to prove you have an oral contract? Will the breaching party admit the to making the contract? Not likely. Do you have notes, emails, texts, anything in writing? Are there witnesses to the conversation? If so, are they reliable? If not, have the parties started performing?

And the questions go on and on trying to build a trail of reliable, admissible evidence to prove up the oral agreement. One must also ask, is attempting to enforce the verbal agreement in court going to be cost effective?

Of course, that depends on the agreement. It likely is not cost effective to file a lawsuit over a low value agreement, but may well be worth the time, money, and effort to enforce a high value contract. There are avenues to try before filing a lawsuit.

social media shot

Sometimes, a written demand for performance does the trick. Mediation is also a less costly alternative to a lawsuit if the other side is willing to participate. Most people who ask me the question realize it would have been easier to have reduced the agreement to writing.

Thus, this series was born. I’m calling it “Writing It Down.” This series of posts will explore using simple written agreements to support small businesses.

Weapons Policy [SAMPLE]

This is a sample policy intended as a general example. This policy is provided as a free service and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. Before enacting a weapons free policy, it is a good idea to consult an attorney.

No weapons of any kind are allowed on the premises. This policy applies to all persons entering the premises except authorized security personnel and law enforcement. To be clear, this policy applies to customers and employees, and the policy prohibits all weapons whether concealed or carried openly. Further, all employees including full-time employees, part-time employees, temporary workers, and independent contractors are prohibited from carrying weapons outside the premises when acting in the course and scope of employment. Texas law allows private businesses to ban guns from the business premises even if the gun owner has a concealed carry permit. We have posted the required notices prohibiting handguns at all public entrances. It is a misdemeanor crime of criminal trespass to carry a handgun into a business that has posted the required notice or to refuse to remove a handgun from the business when asked. It is also a crime to intentionally or knowingly display any type of firearm in a public place in a way that is calculated to cause alarm. The law allows handguns to be carried in a parking lot or parking garage only if they are concealed and secured. In other words, the handgun should be hidden from sight, and the vehicle should be locked.

Any employee that carries a weapon into the building will be subject to discipline including immediate termination.

Do not confront someone openly carrying a weapon. If an employee sees a person carrying a weapon on the premises (the violator), the employee should notify security and a supervisor immediately. If the violator is carrying a weapon in a manner that causes concern for safety, call 9-1-1 and request police assistance. Follow the instructions provided by the 9-1-1 operator.