As a professional in the fitness industry — a Box owner, Coach or other service provider — you know that business happens at the speed of now, making it difficult to get agreements in writing. One of the great things about the industry is it encourages spontaneous collaboration and partnerships, which no doubt has led to the kind of innovation that makes the fitness community such an exciting place to build a career.
For example, new sponsors and vendors who want to develop partnerships around products or services approach Box owners. Coaches are invited to conduct seminars and teach their methods to large audiences. Innovators collaborate on new fitness methods, materials and classes. Friends decide that it’s the perfect time to partner up and open a new Box in an underserved market.
But because business happens so fast — and because many of these arrangements are friendly and informal — the importance of reducing the terms of these relationships to writing is often overlooked. There are any number of reasons why an unwritten “handshake” agreement might seem like a good fit:
Ultimately, though, these reasons often are outweighed by the potential negative effects of allowing your key business relationships to be governed by oral agreements. Although many oral agreements are enforceable — with a number of well-defined exceptions — you can find yourself in the middle of a complicated “he said/she said” discussion down the road if one side challenges the nature of the promises made by the parties to the agreement. And often times, disagreements that arise are not about the terms that were discussed, but rather the terms that neither side thought to discuss at the time.
Understandably, there are certain circumstances where the relationship must at least begin with a handshake. But the reasons to keep handshake agreements in place for the long term are few, and running a responsible business requires you to continually evaluate the development of your unwritten agreements, and think carefully about the immediate and long-term repercussions that might flow from a handshake deal.
Here are just a few reasons why you might consider making it your practice to enter into written agreements:
At the end of the day, remember this: Although some perceive written agreements as an inconvenience, they are designed for the protection of everyone involved and are there to provide you with peace of mind. Seasoned professionals understand this, and those are the type of individuals and companies with whom you should want to work.
NOTE: None of the information in this article is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only, does NOT constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel from an attorney.