Contracts are lengthy documents filled with flourishing legal wording such as notwithstanding, indemnification, repudiations and quorums... but, do we need all this?
At Mäd, we want to optimize everything we can, for the better- and this includes making contracts better, and simpler.
If you consider the amount of T&Cs you've agreed to, for apps, software, rental contracts, employment contracts, bank paperwork and a whole host of other items, the amount of information to read would be staggering. We're fairly confident that we've never met an individual that reads every word of updated T&Cs every time they're faced with them. If Apple decided to add 'by agreeing to these T&Cs you authorize Apple to sell your personal information' to the middle of their jargon, the vast percentage of the population would have absolutely no idea and likely click 'agree' unwittingly. The sheer amount of legal jargon involved for using a particular phone application seems unnecessary, yet companies can't risk leaving any stone unturned when it comes to their own security and legal protections.
However, recently we began to question why we were following this practice regarding our Mäd contracts. Albeit the 'status quo', we wondered if we really needed to present a client with 45 pages of intricate details about every particular of our project partnership with them.
What Lengthy Contracts Portray.
After a pleasant, constructive and progressive meeting, you may be greeted with a weighty contract. The pages are filled with clauses designed to cover the person you're going in to business with in almost every eventuality, the more you read in to it, the less friendly the interaction may seen. When you're excited to start a new project, the last thing you want to be thinking about is who's fault it'll be if something fails, what financial penalties may occur for various malpractice, who owns certain IPs and what the potential pain points will be over such aspects of the project.
We felt our ethos didn't match with this lengthy, unfriendly process and sought out a solution. We wanted to create a simple, easy to understand contract, that would allow us to work effectively with a client whilst keeping goals aligned and defined.
Here's what we came up with, reducing 45 pages to one:
- This agreement is between Mäd and Client Name on ______
- The representatives are Rep Name for Mäd and Client Rep Name for the Client.
- This contract is the only agreement. There are no other agreements, oral or written.
- The Client wishes to purchase the services from Mad described in “Scope of Work”.
- This contract can only be modified or amended by mutual agreement of Mäd and the Client, in writing.
- This contract is governed by the laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
- All official project communication will be in the project management platform Bloo.
- The client will provide feedback on any mid-project deliverables within 5 working days. If feedback takes longer, Mad may re-quote the timeline and price of the project.
- Invoices are to be paid within 15 days of being received by the client.
- Mad will stop working if the invoices under this contract are not paid within 30 days of being received by the client, and may terminate the agreement.
- Mäd has full permission to use any non-confidential deliverables in their portfolio and marketing materials, including but not limited to a case study on the Mäd website.
- The liability of Mäd to the Client under this contract will be limited to the payments actually received by Mäd from the Client under this contract.
- All intellectual property created by Mäd under this contract will be the property of the Client, after all payments have been received by Mad.
- Mäd will treat all client information as fully confidential. Mad will only disclose confidential Client information to pre-approved employees and subcontractors.
And that's it.
Our contract is clear, and calls for external documents when necessary. We don't muddle vague terms, and we don't use overly complicated language that may leave a client feeling uneasy. We're able to talk through every point, in a nice concise timeframe, ensuring the Client is fully aware and happy with the agreement.
This process, is called the 'plain language approach'.
Any team member, from any background, can pick up the contract and know exactly what has been agreed. There's no need to comb through pages of complicated technical terms in order to decipher what's acceptable, expected or core to the contract. The clearer the agreement, the clearer the project, and the easier it is to discuss the specifics at any point.
We are able to reduce the negotiation time with clients, and instead focus our time on ensuring we Make It Happen™. Administration and meetings for the sake of meetings can be a distraction, an inconvenience and simply not conducive to exciting work: So steam-line and simplify what you can!
The first challenge is dedicating time to addressing your existing contracts, and finding ways to condense them and convert them to simple language. This can be a daunting, time consuming task- but in the long term it will save you many headaches and many hours. We recommend approaching your existing contracts as if you were the customer, imagine how they'd interpret various points and imagine what their expectations may be; You'll need to commit to improving the experience for not just yourself and your company, but for those on the other side of the contract that you wish to do business with.
Clarity is awesome.
Swapping unnecessary paperwork for additional creativity is even more awesome.