“Above all, success in business requires two things: a winning competitive strategy, and superb organizational execution. Distrust is the enemy of both. I submit that while high trust won’t necessarily rescue a poor strategy, low trust will almost always derail a good one.” ~ Stephen M.R. Covey
Some Businesses Will Happily Neglect Your Best Interests
Being a small business often leaves you with less negotiating heft. You aren’t anyone’s biggest client. You don’t have a massive legal team. Sometimes the way you’re treated is just terrible, but you do have some control over how much of that treatment you allow.
6 days after we opened our first location, we received a letter that the mall would be undergoing serious construction within the next year. Not once during contracting did the landlord mention the multi-million dollar construction project that they had been planning for over a year. They had completely misled me, and when I asked for more information, they had no comment. We would be required to move some time, but wouldn’t know when.
Obviously that was awful. Fortunately, my friend’s mother had encouraged me to push for 60 days construction notice instead of 24 hours, and for a way out of the contract. So, given the chance to leave early, we did. We officially left on December 31. We timed things correctly. Every business that stayed was given a letter on January 1 saying they had 60 days to move.
Thanks to my contact, we dodged a much more devastating blow, but needing to relocate after just opening is not good for business. Granted, most of our clients stuck with us, and we moved to a nicer place with lower rent, but we got lucky.
The Work Starts Before the Contract is Drafted
I was lucky to have a legal connection like my friend’s mom, but the point isn’t only that you should read the small print (of course you should). At the end of the day, being forced to move 5 months after opening is pretty miserable, even if the contract gives you some protection. That’s not good enough.
The point is that you should work with people and businesses you can trust. Since that initial misstep, I have been working almost exclusively with business partners who have been referred to me by trustworthy people.
Use Your Network
If you have a friend who does business in your area, ask them who they work with. What software do they use for accounting? Who is their insurance agent? They might run a completely different business, but all businesses have some basic needs. Before you move into a new location, ask other tenants what they think of the management. Life is a lot easier when you can stop worrying about having the rug pulled out from under you. This is where that all-important “network” becomes your most valuable asset. Use it.
Trustworthiness might seem subjective and fluffy, but it can save a lot of very real money.
Luke Schlangen is the founder and president of Abamath: A Better Approach to Math