Procrastination: never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. Most of us have a love/hate relationship with procrastination. It can fuel our creativity and clarify goals. It can also cripple our task lists and raise our blood pressure.
When do the costs of procrastination outweigh the benefits? The scales tip against procrastination when we have waited so long to do something that either we lose the opportunity completely or it negatively affects our business.
Procrastinating in Business
In a business context, some tasks appear to have a due date that never arrives. Many businesses put off these items with good intentions. Projects like customer contracts and written employee policies often fall into this category.
We intend to update our customer contracts – when there’s more time to focus on them. We want written employee policies – but we need this position filled now! It makes business sense at that time, and projects like this can always be handled later. Right? The answer is yes and no.
It is true we can always change customer contracts. We can always put employee policies in writing. However, new contracts and new policies are forward-looking by default. They apply from the date of creation and into the future. They do not automatically apply retroactively.
Sometimes with additional work business documents can include retroactive enforcement. First, retroactivity requires additional contract language. It will also involve a complex process of asking current customers and employees to acknowledge each change and accept its retroactive application. To complete the retroactive process, each response must be fully documented and saved for a period of time. Whew – that’s a lot to do!
To further complicate the issue, some customers and employees will object to the change and refuse to continue under the new terms. Even when they accept the changes, the process of change can create resentments which carry over into the business relationship going forward. A once happy customer is now dissatisfied, and it considerably shortens the length of the relationship.
When It’s Too Late to Change Customer Contracts
In some situations, it is already too late to change the customer contract. What are some situations you see this in your business? Here are a few we regularly run across:
Arbitration Agreements (Prevent Litigation)
The essence of an arbitration agreement is to avoid consumer litigation. These agreements are extremely effective because Texas courts will enforce an arbitration agreement almost 100% of the time. Arbitration is also simple to add into your customer contract. But you cannot add arbitration clauses after a problem arises. So by the time a consumer is upset, it is too late to change the customer contract.
Social Media Testimonials (Avoid Bad PR)
We all know by now that social media proof is extremely valuable marketing for our business. Any way we can collect testimonials, client pictures, project pictures, and ratings is both beneficial and necessary. But don’t forget to get the customer’s permission – in advance! Permission is usually impossible to get retroactively if a customer is already upset about being in your marketing. Are the resulting bad online reviews worth it?
Automatic Credit Card Charges (Limit Refunds and Chargebacks)
From recurring revenue to less administrative overhead, the ability to make income without having to create invoices and collect upon them has many business benefits. Automatic credit card charging systems are a huge part of the process. One key to any system, however, is to have a proper written customer authorization for the charges.Without a written authorization signed by the client, any customer complaint will cause an unavoidable chargeback. Ouch!
Do you have any customer contract at all?
Whether it’s a formal paper contract, terms and conditions on your e-commerce website, or the fine print on another customer document, all businesses need some kind of customer contract. Otherwise, you may find that your biggest business policy is “the customer is always right.”
Texas allows employers to deduct all kinds of expenses directly from an employee’s paycheck. Examples include deductions for insurance, uniforms, and lost business equipment. If you create a payroll deduction without advance written employee authorization, though, the Texas Workforce Commission will force you to return the money.
Social Media Posting Policies (Protect Trade Secrets and Prevent Bad PR)
We all live on our cell phones and on various social media websites, and some employee social media posting is good additional organic marketing for your business. No doubt. But consider the situation where an employee posts pictures of something super-sensitive from your business. It may be well-intentioned on the employee’s part, but it may also make a business trade secret public. Worse, the post may violate a confidentiality agreement your business has with a client or other vendor – exposing your business to potential litigation and other business losses. We have also seen disgruntled former employees post sensitive information out of spite.Current employees who made a posting error may hit the delete button, but a revenge post is likely online forever. The recourse in any of these situations is to have a social media posting policy you can present to the social media platform and have the problematic post removed.
Even bad employee documentation is usually better than none. When facing progressive employee discipline, make sure you follow any written policies already in place and document every step you take to correct the problem. Documentation can consist of notes and emails as well formal written warnings. Keep things factual and objective. If you terminate the employee and they file an unemployment claim, providing the Workforce Commission with written progressive documentation will help you win the case.
Do you have any written employment policies?
Creating an employee manual is one task that most small businesses (and a lot of medium businesses) never complete. Is your business procrastinating? Start small and document individual employment policies already being used. Soon you’ll have so many of your policies in writing that, with a little help, you can turn them into a full employee handbook.
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Patric McCallum is a principal attorney with Drew & McCallum. He focuses his practice on family and business law, helping business leaders and Texas families with their legal challenges and needs. He brings a wealth of trial experience and industry knowledge to every matter he handles.