It may seem quaint in these days of e-mailed documents, faxes, electronic signatures and such but there is nothing quite like getting an original signature on a document for many of the agreements which makeup our business. If you have registered your investment advisory firm with IARD, you know that in order to establish an account – the first step to doing ANYTHING – you must mail in a paper form with your signature on it. Having that signed paper gives the IARD some comfort and it may likely do the same for you in your business.
Granted, of course, that even when you have a signature or at least a facsimile of one, it may not deter a person from behaving as if there is no agreement or that its terms are still open to negotiation. How often have you run into someone who made a business proposal or accepted one verbally but then proceeded to try to change the terms after the fact? Even when an agreement is written and signed, this type of person will always be looking to get a better deal or at least a different one.
This type of uncertainty is bad for business. In all types of dealings, and particularly financial ones, it is important for all the parties and participants to know where they stand. If material terms are constantly changing or adjustments requested, it is hard to proceed with the relationship. It is also difficult to justify allocating resources when such uncertainty exists. Fortunately, most folks will not attempt to change an agreement once the parties have reached it and its terms are understood. These people will read and then sign the agreement and that is that.
Because we do not always know what kind of person we are dealing with at the outset, the most important task is to be sure to get it in writing. This certainly applies to your client and vendor agreements and probably pretty much any other business arrangement. Second, if you happen to run into that person who treats an agreement as something they can change at any time, don’t walk, run away.