The success of most business arrangements is contingent upon the people involved in the deal working well together. With respect to contract management, establishing and cultivating a healthy working relationship is particularly important, as soured contracts often lead to lengthy and costly legal disputes. In far too many instances, a contracting agreement falls apart due to minor mistakes that unnecessarily evolve into much larger issues. Many of these problems stem from poor management techniques, as well as flawed communication processes. Here are five relationship management tips for contract managers to help avoid contracting hassles:
Start Off Right
It is imperative to start off a relationship right to ensure that it will thrive. Once a contract has been established between two parties, both sides should be ready to get to work right away. Of course, this work cannot begin in a vacuum. Before heading off in separate directions, the parties should set up a meeting to allow for an exchange of goals and expectations and a brainstorming session to create a mutually attainable strategic plan. If the proper groundwork is not laid before things kick off, it is much more likely for the parties to create an incongruent or even incompatible way of achieving the objectives of the contract.
Assemble a Strong Team
In addition to getting to know some of the people from the other side, each party must assess its internal capacity and identify the right people to lead different aspects of the contract. In a high stakes contract, it is unwise to allow the project to be understaffed or to utilize inexperienced personnel to handle highly sensitive matters. Of course, it is always important to divide and conquer to maximize efficiency, but there has to be a decent amount of coordination and communication among the different teams.
Communicate Openly and Often
Communication is probably the most important component of a successful relationship, whether professional or personal in nature. These days, communication is easier than ever, and prior obstacles to the exchange of information, such as cost or distance simply are not factors anymore. Nonetheless, communication remains one of the primary culprits in the demise of a relationship, again in both the professional and personal context. But, building and maintaining strong contracting relationships is dependent on open, transparent, and frequent communication among all relevant stakeholders.
Keep it Professional
In some cases, the breakdown of a contracting relationship occurs when those managing the situation allow emotions and ego to interfere with logic and professionalism. There are going to be times during any contracting arrangement that actions are questioned and tempers are tested. In these trying instances, cooler heads must prevail as people cannot take these matters personally, otherwise disaster will no doubt ensue. The primary focus should always be on the greater good and the overarching objectives of the agreement.
Apply the Lessons Learned
People sometimes make mistakes and things may go wrong no matter how much is done to avoid issues. Rather than obsess over the how and why of it all, it is important to use the lessons that are learned from each relationship, both good and bad, and apply them wisely to future scenarios. The only way a contracting relationship can grow and evolve is by constantly striving for improvement.