Congratulations: you’ve been selected for a project.
And after having been notified of your win, you’ve worked with your client to negotiate final terms for the work.
Now you’re sitting with a draft contract on your desk.
As you read through the contract (and, yes, you should read every word of every contract you receive), you should consider that you have officially started your project management relationship with your client. This is a critical moment for you in shaping the relationship you want to maintain for the duration of your work.
Don’t go too fast. Every client in the world believes their project is the most important. Unfortunately, in our business this can lead to a great deal of what I call “manufactured emergency/urgency”. Manufactured urgency is often used as a tool in negotiations and management with contractors – even though it’s done subconsciously in most cases (in my experience).
When you’re hired on a contract, you want to be in the driver’s seat for the work. So take your time – make sure you confirm everything in the project with your partners and staff and try to get the best deal possible on your contract. See if you can pre-position or do prep work to be prepared and lower your costs on the project. One of the best ways to ensure you’re driving the contract is to ask a lot of questions while you’re getting prepared. This can include getting contact information for key personnel, setting up banking or financial tools, confirming travel and more. While taking your time has its advantages …
… don’t go too slow. If you drag your feet too much during contract signing (or if you’re having trouble getting your client to finalize and execute the contract) you might face difficulties. Your staff (especially consultants you’ve committed for the work) can become uncommitted or, worse, get sucked into other projects. Within your practice or company, other obligations and work can get pushed to the top of the pile and distract you, or your management, from moving forward with the work necessary for this contract. Further, you likely have an agreed work plan and timeline – the more delay that happens during contract execution, the more likely it will be that you will fall behind in your deliverables. Finally, you have cash flow needs. Getting the contract signed and the work started gets you that much closer to getting paid for your work. And, if you’re selected for a grant or similar, there’s likelihood that you can get an advance upon contract signing.
The bottom line is the bottom line. Your solvency is the most important metric for your practice or business whether you’re a for-profit or not-for-profit company. Making decisions that put this in jeopardy can really create discomfort for you, your staff and your partners. Making sure you are cashflow-positive at all times allows you to produce the highest quality work possible for your client without distraction.