I saw an agreement the other day which listed the services in about two sentences. This might be an acceptable description if the services are personal lawnmowing… or room painting.
Generally speaking, your services description for any project of any length of time needs to be more than a paragraph. No, it’s not about length – it’s about quality. But while quality doesn’t rely on length (see Ken Adams for more detail on that argument), it’s an indicator of completeness, which is what’s really important.
Let’s look at a basic project, like lawnmowing. A single sentence services description would probably look like this:
“Provider will mown the grass at xyz location one time per week between today and 1 year from today.”
Is that a complete enough description? Perhaps.
How do you know if it’s complete enough? Start to ask questions.
1. How big is the area to be serviced?
2. How long is it going to take to mow the lawn?
3. Are there times of the day where the noise would be problematic?
4. Should the provider “edge” the lawn at the curbs and sidewalks?
5. What should be done with the clippings?
6. Who is going to be doing the mowing?
7. Who supplies the equipment?
8. Is there an adjustment for the cost of fuel for the mowers?
OK… I think I’ve made the point. Even for something as seemingly simple as lawnmowing, it doesn’t take long to generate a list of questions that should be answered in your services description/SOW.
Just remember, your services description is all that stands between you and your money for the quality of the services performed. You will NOT get to use what’s in your head, what you assume, and in some cases, what you think to be industry standard, to hold the services provider accountable after contract signature. In other words, if you can think it, WRITE IT DOWN.
Seems a little anal retentive? Sure. You can even apologize and tell the other side that you’re just weird. Making fun of yourself actually is beneficial to your negotiating position if you can do it with sincerity (read the book I recommended last week for details – it’s in there). Trust me, a little anal retentiveness now goes a long way to preventing problems later.
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