Internal Relationships

I really love my business owners. They’re new to having a contracts person in-house, but they appear to understand my purpose and don’t make it too hard for me to implement proper contract management processes and procedures.

But it’s not something that has happened over night and it’s not something that transfers from one individual to another without my participation. In other words, if I have a good negotiation/contracts experience with one business owner, I have to do it again with the next one. This increases the length of time it takes to build a reputation within the organization. It also means that not all of my business owners will be equally satisfied with me or my performance.

Some of this is due to human nature. You’re simply not meant to be best friends with every person you meet. There’s just too much individuality and uniqueness in personalities. There’s also the nature of each deal to worry about. Sometimes you’ll have an easy win (from your perspective) which looks impressive from the outside. Or sometimes you’ll just work really hard and be rewarded with a successful outcome and a grateful business owner as a result of your hard work.

What do you do, however, when you feel an internal relationship slipping away? You know what I mean – that situation where you KNOW you’re doing the best you can, but for whatever reason, your business owner is just not on the same page with you. Or perhaps YOU are the business owner and you need your contracts person’s help, but you feel like they just don’t get the fact that you have deadlines, budgets and other constraints?

See, I’ve got one of these going on right now. I have a business owner that I respect highly and knows his business. He also knows his vendor and he has put in the effort to understand my position. Here’s the scoop: long-time vendor on an important aspect of our business, agreement that’s over a decade old, vendor isn’t a sole-source and doesn’t perform as well as we would hope. I really am encouraging him to start fresh from our template Master Agreement. It would add in some of the checks & balances-type language that would give us some amount of leverage to encourage better performance.

The vendor, of course, doesn’t want to review our paper (it’s a 30+ page document). The business owner doesn’t want to do anything that would damage the relationship. His initial suggestion was to do a document comparison of the old doc against the new one and identify the differences and pull those in via an amendment. Frankly, that would take longer than just starting from their template agreement again and doing a redline. I’m slammed as it is. If we’re going to re-open negotiations across the board, it doesn’t make sense to start with their document.

His second suggestion was to use outside counsel. That’s well within his right – assuming he’s got the budget to spend. But I would prefer he doesn’t (I don’t like wasting the money on something I can do for him). Again, we’d simply be opening the door to a negotiation to edit a decade-old agreement rather than start from the template.

And now he’s talking about going through our template himself and looking for those things that he would love to pull into the existing agreement. I would rather not see him spend that kind of time on it – as it seems that he really wants our better language yet is afraid that pushing our template will ultimately damage his relationship with the vendor.

I’m not sure what to tell him at this point. Any suggestions for him or me?


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