Often, when we need a consulting project done quickly, or we are working with a consultant or company we’ve worked with before, we decide on a rate, and that’s the end of it. The consultants industry however, is fraught with difficulties arising from this sort of arrangement.
While many of these arrangements end well, it is always a good idea, when hiring a consultant, to insist that it be done on paper, in the form of a contract. Think about it – you wouldn’t buy or sell anything else for your business without a written document, would you? Consulting skills are no different, and here’s why:
1. They Protect You, the Client
By getting everything down in writing, from rates to the scope of the project, to the expected timeframe, you create a baseline for the project.
If there are any deviations from that baseline on the part of the consultant you have hired, you can query that, and if necessary, you have legal recourse.
2. They Protect the Consultant
Many consultants have been burned by clients who did things in a more casual, gentlemen’s agreement type of manner.
Once they had accepted a project, they ended up having to complete tasks they had not included in their price, or had no access to promised resources, staff or equipment.
In fact, many good consultants will flat out refuse a project that does not require a formal consulting proposal, as well as a written contract, outlining the project, their responsibilities, role players and fees and rates.
3. They Help Ensure Project Success
Many projects that I have worked on have used the contract as a basis for progress meetings. Since the contract sets out the exact requirements of the project, costs, timeframes and other details, it can form the basis of progress meetings.
Simply by addressing the various requirements, as set out in the contract, or any new items that may have arisen that do not already form a part of the project, you have a comprehensive meeting agenda.
Not only are contracts useful in meetings, but they usually contain provisions for non compliance or non performance on the part of the consultants you have hired. They can therefore be used in the case of a dispute, to resolve the dispute, or even if disciplinary action or termination become a requirement
Not Just Red Tape
It’s clear that from the perspective of all parties involved, as well as on a project level, contracts are a smart move.
They give everyone a clear picture of what’s happening, when, how and why, and what to do if a deliverable is not met, or one of the parties reneges on a promise.
Clearly, when recruiting consultants, drawing up a proper legal contract is not merely another waste of paper and time, and it can have a huge impact on the success or failure of the project at hand.
If you do use consultants’ services regularly, why not draw up a generic document that you can simply alter on a project by project basis? The time invested will be well worth your while!