I’m from the old school of business and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I like agreements to be in writing and I expect everyone to live up to what they have agreed to do, including me. If I screw up I commit to fix the problem quickly, even if it is expensive, embarrassing or inconvenient. If the other party screws up I expect them to behave the same way.

It’s a simple approach that places a high need on setting clear expectations up front and that’s not always easy. But it is possible and you get better at it the more times you do it. If you are constantly having arguments with your partners, suppliers, and customers about what was expected vs. what was delivered then maybe a little old school business might be just the ticket you need.

To mitigate potential problems it is important to spend time making sure that all joint expectations are understood and agreed to up front. Labour the point if you need to but never rush into a new agreement until all the fundamentals are clear and everyone understands them. Then put it in writing. Nobody can argue with you later on that they didn’t understand what they were signing if you take your time and work through it point by point.

This approach works for me because I am time poor and I hate re-writing deals after the event. I know that by setting clear expectations in advance and then discussing what will happen if things go wrong we will end up with fewer surprises. Sometimes things do go wrong and when this happens it is essential to be empathetic and open to resolution options. There is no onus on you, however, to ever go backwards on a deal if the problem was not created by you.

This only works if you behave the same way when you screw up. This sets a behavioural precedent that is difficult to argue against. It’s not about winning or losing. It is about accountability. Do what you say you will do but if it goes wrong fix it quickly and make it whole again. If you don’t trust will be eroded and the sincerity of the relationship may be questioned. This is bad business on every level.

Yes I am old school (unashamedly). I guess I’ve learnt the hard way that an extra hour or two of good preparation which is then embodied within a written agreement will save 12 hours (or more) of time fixing problems later on. Time I’d rather spend at home kicking the footy with my kids…