Contracts for Mavericks of course! is contracting to make yourself think! We’ve (Irenicon) been writing contracts for business owners for decades and it is always an interesting journey taking someone who wants the flexibility to do their own thing and turn on a sixpence through the process of creating useful and lawful contracts with competitive advantage. There’s a natural resistance in the entrepreneurial spirit to being pinned down or following rules. I am not immune to it myself.
Our love of freedom can also enable a lack of focus or structure if we overindulge it. Making money in business requires a lot more than passion or being clever – it requires finding something to do that people will pay for and delivering it consistently in a way that makes money without wearing us out. That means finding a business process that works from finding customers to delivery to getting paid.
Contracts for Mavericks, of course!: A great business contract, aligned to those processes, can be a powerful ally in helping to align your clients with your way of working. By setting all the key things out in advance it can facilitate conversations about why you do what you do the way you do it – and sometimes weed out people you could never work with or get paid by. The contract sets up psychological expectations as well as legal ones and by articulating our own expectations and communicating them clearly, we are setting not only goals but boundaries.
I used to think the most important boundaries we set with our contracts were with our clients and suppliers. That is certainly important, but after forty years in business I am discovering that the biggest benefit is setting boundaries for myself. The most important psychological contract I have is between me and me. Having a contract that sets out how I do business checks me and makes me thing. When a client wants a discount for no reason I think – What do my terms of business say? What have I said I will do? I know I have spent a lot of time thinking through my business model and I go back to that place rather than act on impulse or on the spur of the moment.
It is so easy to set off with a fear of missing out (FOMO) and start to worry and think if I don’t do what this person wants will I lose the business? But getting back to my contract reminds me what a profitable and mutually beneficial business deal looks like for my business. Of course, I can reflect and decide to make a change – but more often than not, I simply explain why we need to work as we do – and the client is happy.
I never used to think of rules being the foundation for freedom. It sounds entirely contradictory – but I am beginning to see how we need structure to deliver and live healthily (and wealthier where we can) and my youthful desire for freedom often left me spinning my wheels with no way of measuring the effectiveness of what I was doing.