Why You Should get it in Writing


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:

  • Your relationship with the other person is a strong and amicable one, and you’re confident that you could work out any differences that arise.
  • No one else asks to have these kinds of agreements in writing, so there’s no need to ask for one.
  • It’s only a small project, and the likelihood of something going wrong is minimal.
  • Ironing out the details of a contract is complicated. It will take time, energy and financial resources to complete — and there are not much of those to go around.
  • Asking for a contract might stifle the spirit of collaboration that got you and the other side excited about the opportunity in the first place.

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:

  1. They clearly outline the rights and responsibilities of both sides
    A well-drafted agreement should leave no confusion over each party’s respective obligations and the benefits that will flow from the agreement. A sloppy oral agreement can spin off into a thousand different directions, while a written agreement gives you a concrete roadmap to follow.
  2. They contemplate the “What ifs” that most oral agreements do not.
    Disputes over what was never talked about arise just as often as disputes over what was talked about — and a well-drafted agreement should cover even the most unlikely circumstances.
  3. They avoid ambiguity.
    How often have you said something to someone, thinking they completely understand you, but you find out later that you both had different but equally valid interpretations? Writing out the terms of an agreement avoids the ambiguities of verbal communication.
  4. They are easier to enforce.
    The terms of a written agreement are in black and white. You can refer to and rely on them with confidence in the event a disagreement arises, or if you are unclear on the extent of your responsibilities.
  5. They are the sign of a mature company.
    Companies and industry professionals signal their maturity by requesting that their key business agreements be in writing.

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.

Drew is the owner of Move Strategy, a consulting and education based company focused on helping fitness business owners grow and build their business. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @fitlawdrew.