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Why you need terms and conditions

21/02/2011

Small print, big difference

Creative Commons Glasses on text by Joe Buckingham_Flickr

Our customers like to grill us about general risk management and good business practice.

And why not? We're not legal advisers, but we can point most people in the right direction.

But to keep things interesting, we like to turn the tables and get people thinking about that sort of thing for themselves too.

A good example is this totally made up utterly genuine conversation about terms and conditions:

PolicyBee: OK, small business owner, what do you think are the best ways to protect your business?

Client: Easy. A really big dog. Next!

PB: Hmm. Let's try that again shall we? What do you think are the best ways to protect your business, legally speaking?

Client: Oh I see what you mean. Good question. As you’re a business insurance broker, I’m guessing you want me to say professional indemnity insurance? Something like that?

PB: It'll help, certainly. Anything else?

Client: Um ... a smart lawyer and a wily accountant would probably help. Maybe even a small business adviser too? I'm guessing now to be honest.

PB: You’re getting warmer. Have you thought about written terms and conditions?

Client: Can't say I have. Should I?

PB: Yes. They demonstrate your credibility and show you’re serious about your business. And how you do business.

Client: Righto. What else?

PB: Well, they form the basis of the contract between you and your client. They lay out the terms upon which you do business and protect your interests if things go wrong. And that’s really important.

Client: It certainly is. OK, I can see how they’d be useful but aren’t they a bit heavy-handed? We’re pretty small. In fact, it's just me.

PB: Not necessarily. Ts & Cs don’t have to be twenty pages long and drowning in legal terms. If you’re sending a quote or job spec to a client, a one-page attachment outlining what’s expected from both parties is often enough.

Every business needs some protection. And small shouldn’t mean vulnerable.

Client: Yes, good point. I think I’ll look into it. How do I get started?

PB: Although you know your business and your clients better than anyone, it’s best not to write your own Ts & Cs. We recommend getting in touch with a legal professional – ideally a solicitor who’s a specialist in your area of business.

Give them a good idea about what you do and how you work. It shouldn’t take too much time to draw up Ts & Cs that match your procedures.

Client: Brilliant. I will. Thanks for the tip PolicyBee, you’re the best.

PB: Steady on. People will think this isn’t a real conversation.

Client: Yep. Sorry. Forgot. Oh, one more thing: will having Ts & Cs make any difference to my insurance? As in, will it be cheaper?

PB: There’s no specific discount available, no. But, crucially, it does show insurers you’re thinking about your risks and that you take your business seriously. You’re a professional professional in other words.

That counts for a lot and it could mean some kind of reduction over time.

Client: A professional professional eh? I like the sound of that. And I’ll bear the rest in mind. Thanks again PolicyBee.

PB: No problem. Thanks for your, er, call.

No customers were harmed in the making of this article. Any similarities to actual small business owners is purely coincidental, although probably pretty likely.

 
 

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