One of my least favorite aspects of our business is dealing with contract paperwork. I once worked for a large, incredibly sophisticated software company that required me to get a signature from clients faxed in old school style. Now I run a company comprised of 4 people who all work virtually. When we secured our first client, we used a contract that we received from my partner’s cousin, who was in law school at the time. After adding a pretty cover page and detailed requirements documentation, the thing turned out to be nearly 20 pages.
It was such a hassle to create and send this lengthy contract that half the time I avoided it by outlining the software services via email. The problem with using email is that too many expectations are not addressed. This becomes an issue, say, when a client has another development firm make changes to your code after a job is done and then expects a refund because all of sudden it appears that something broke. Yes, contracts are a necessary evil.
Earlier this month I embarked on a mission to revamp how we do contracts. My overarching objective since joining Elias has been to create a great customer experience that converts clients into raving fans of Elias.
Key objectives for “operation contract” included:
+ improve the experience for the customer by making it easy to do business with Elias
+ decrease the length of a contract to under 5 pages
+ make the contract language clear, especially with regard to warranty (important for software services)
+ decrease the time it would take to execute an agreement so that the focus is on the client’s project, not the legal stuff
I spent a day googling contract examples and reviewing agreements that we had received from other companies. Then I rewrote several drafts of the legal jargon until it made sense to me. This lowered the terms and conditions (T&C’s) page count from 15 to 5. Better. But still too long by the time I added a statement of work at the end to detail what each client engagement included.
This is where design became important. Eric applied his designer touch and, after our attorney recommended we remove a section, got the T&C’s down to 2 pages. Add 1-3 pages of statement of work and I accomplished my goals of less than 5 pages and clear language. But I still needed to get around the pain of asking a client to print, sign, and scan/fax the executed copy to me.
Josh Fendley, a friend a partner, suggested I try RightSignature to sign agreements online. Their free plan lets you upload 5 docs/month and then use your mouse to sign. Now our clients receive a 3-5 page contract via an emailed link and sign the thing in less than 30 seconds with their mouse. This has revolutionized how we serve clients by allowing us to focus on the client’s business instead of spending hours adjusting and completing contracts (it literally used to take 2-3 hours to prep a contract).
If you want a copy of the contract then either comment below or drop me an email: josh[at]eliasinteractive.com