I have spent much of this last month focused on intellectual property and business process. It always fascinates me how I can deal with such similar issues at the same time despite having clients with such different businesses in different stages. This month, that has been intellectual property and litigation. An odd combination I know, but that is how August looked for me. Who knows what September will hold!
One thing I do know (and I want to make sure you are aware) is that I will be on vacation next week!
Let’s talk about how we get to go on vacation. Or, more specifically, how we get to enjoy vacations. Systems.
All businesses run on systems. Even if they aren’t written down. Even if they aren’t planned. The question is, are they the right systems? Have you taken the time to plan out what happens in your business?
- How do you attract clients?
- How do you tell your story?
- How do you close deals?
Without systems in place, your legal may not protect you the way you think it does. That is why, when I work on contracts for clients, I ask a lot of questions. That is why I recommend reviewing the contracts you use in your business each year. If your systems aren’t clear and there is not a systematic way of doing things, your contracts may not cover everything they need to cover. So, I ask questions to help clarify the systems underlying the contracts. The thing is, if you don’t have a system and you don’t do things the same each time, your contracts may not help you when you need them most. Contracts are only helpful when they accurately describe a transaction. When you are using template contracts (like a client agreement), your system dictates whether or not the contracts apply the same each time they are used.
But, systems do more than that.
Business systems tell you why you failed or why you succeeded. If you failed, you need to know why, so you don’t repeat it. If you succeeded, you need to know how so you can do it again.
No matter your purpose for having a business, systems will help you get there. Systems help you create successes you can repeat with great regularity. Systems help you counteract your weakness as a business owner. Systems help you know what is working and what isn’t. Systems help you share your vision, mission, and values with your audience. And systems make sure your contracts continue to protect you the way you think they do.
Just as your systems in your business may change, the legal that protects those systems must change with it.
I cannot stress enough that the contracts you use in your business are living documents. No matter how many issues you thought about during the drafting process of your contract, it is always possible you missed something. If you need to update it because something happens you didn’t think about the first time CHANGE IT. If it happens once, it may happen again. If it was unclear, rewrite it. Contracts can’t be read in a vacuum, they must be applied to the facts surrounding the agreement, and if your system changes, it is possible the facts surrounding the agreement will change.
So, if you are considering big changes in your systems or big changes in how you are dealing with a particular service line or product, you may need to think about updating your legal now. After all, that is what legal does. Legal works to keep your business protected.
But legal works best when you use it proactively.