I have the pleasure of being in charge of my company’s business development efforts. There are several things that come with this role that aren’t always particularly fun:
- Dealing with clients who don’t want to pay their bills.
- Negotiating over the value of your skills.
- Writing and negotiating contracts.
There’s also some fun stuff. But it is the unfun stuff that – as a business owner – has the ability to take years off your life. The number one item on the list above that is controllable, and can mitigate the pain of other items on the list, is having a solid contract in place. In the case of a service based industry (e.g. Product Development) the document you need to make sure you get your lawyer to draft up for you is called a Master Service Agreement (MSA). If you don’t have one, don’t do another job without one.
I have been spending my Friday working through the issues of contract negotiation. It isn’t fun work, but it must be done. We went through an onerous situation earlier this year where a client decided to no pay their bills and having our MSA in place saved us in many ways. Working through these contractual issues and reflecting on how this boring work is something mandatory for the long term success of my business reminded me of an fantastic video about this very subject. Mike Monteiro, of Mule Design, gave a talk titled, “Fuck You, Pay Me”. In it, he talks about several of the key issues that a service industry business owner must address when dealing with a client. There are too many sound bites to be found in this video for me to do it justice by providing you a few quotes. Watch the video, take some notes, then call your lawyer.