I go to great lengths to avoid the grayness in my business. By this I mean addressing any of the gray areas that could come back to haunt me at some stage and there are many. Of course, putting things in writing is a great start, but there is of course more.
The day of the handshake agreement has, sadly, come to an end. If you find that a lot of your business agreements are only verbal and there is nothing in writing, you may need to review the way that you do business.
I have worked very hard at developing systems that protect my business and the companies that we deal with. If it's in writing and both parties have a copy, there really is no room for argument at a later date. Like a lot of relationships, everything may be fine in the early stages, but if it sours you need to be protected by paperwork.
All agreements with suppliers, staff, customers, lawyers, and so on, need to be confirmed in writing. Another excellent habit to get into is to write summaries of meetings and discussions in your diary. If there is a dispute somewhere down the line, your diary can be submitted as evidence. I had to give evidence in a legal matter several years ago and I had to present my diary outlining meetings on specific dates, what was discussed and any follow-up.
The main point here is to encourage you to write down any information that could be important at a later date. File it where you'll know where to find it if you need it. Save your old diaries. I have diaries going back 12 years. I now use my diary to record anything that could later be disputed (and I've actually used these old notebooks in court cases).
Now I know lots of people reading this article completely understand the concept of making sure they have everything in writing, but I would guarantee they still have "things" in their business that need to be dealt with, and there is a whole lot of gray around these issues. This means at some stage these gray issues will come back and haunt them.
My philosophy is to try and address any sticky points in your business. The areas that we know are not quite right, that have the potential to come back and haunt us and we know they will, but we still avoid dealing with them for a host of reasons (they are too complex to manage, no time, they are a low priority etc).
Yes, have as much in writing as we can, but go one step further and work your way through the sticky bits or the grayness in your business. If you address them now, odds on you can avoid them becoming major issues somewhere down the line.
From my experience gray areas in business have a habit of ending up as red print on our profit and loss statements. Deal with them today, sleep better, reduce risk and have nothing that can come back to haunt you, no matter how hard they may be to deal with.