This is the second instalment of our new Gradwell Business Leader Inspirational Series.

The series aims to take a slightly philosophical,  yet comical and logical approach to basic business topics.

Are we becoming chronically distrustful in business?

The last few weeks have predominantly been about next year’s operating plan, and moving house. I am would like to share with you some thoughts that have arisen in conjunction with these two experiences .

It feels like everything we do these days, as long as it has any degree of commitment in it, requires a contract. Car leasing, utilities, mortgages, redirecting the post its all bound up in rules and obligations, and they are all set up in order to generate maximum profit for minimum input for the providing business.

So what often happens is that you feel like you are in a battle, a battle to extract every last concession or penny from the deal.

You end up feeling really adversarial.

I was brought up with the maxim that a gentleman’s word is his bond and discovered the truth of it when I was sponsoring boxing matches.  You shake on a deal and you are making a firm commitment to the future, a future relationship that works for both parties.  Which is the opposite of contracts, which are all about the past, ‘we agreed this point’.  Operating on your word or a handshake is an investment in the future, one that says my word is worth something and I value our relationship in the future.

Now I agree, it may pay to write down the agreement, to confirm the key promises in an email, but always focus on the aim of delighting and exceeding expectations.  What gets measured, gets done is a great truism.  But stay true to the spirit of the handshake and resist the temptation to become history boys and girls by formalising it all in a past focused contract.

You see, the message “I’m hoping we can do this again” is so much more positive than “Clause 2.1.3 says”


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