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My Word Is My Bond

April 16, 2015

It was the right thing to do. . .and we weren’t going to do it. . .for the wrong reason.

Our client wanted us to not just back up their files, but back up their files twice. . .once to Cincinnatti and once to Sacramento. That way if California fell off into the ocean, we’d still have Ohio. Well, I can’t say if it was a good strategy. My job was to figure out how to back up everything twice. . .in real time. 

I figured it out. It would cost us about $550 in additional disk space. Andrew, my new Project Manager, wasn’t going for it. 

Rodney, we just can’t. 

But, it’s the right thing to do. 

That’s not what’s important. What’s important is that we are only going to do what’s in the contract. 

But, if we put it in the contract and we can’t do it, we’ll pay a penalty. We are protected by simply doing it because it’s the right thing.

It doesn’t matter.

And it didn’t. Project Management wasn’t going to spend $550 that they weren’t contractually obligated to. And they had a good reason. Contracts are important right?

Fences make good neighbors.

Contracts are the fences in our business relationships. If you have a contract, it’s clear what is expected from each group. You don’t have to guess what is expected. You don’t have to wonder what the other side will do. 

So, why wouldn’t you want a contract? Wasn’t Project Management correct? Wasn’t it better to insist on a contract? 

For much of America’s history, a man’s word was his bond. Have you ever wondered why? Why would calling someone a liar get you killed in some circumstances? Why would someone bind themselves completely on nothing more than a verbal promise? 

A contract will require you to do a minimum amount. Simply doing the right thing for people requires you to do the best you can for them. One tells you how little you shoudl do, the other tells you how much you should try to do. 

Business contracts are the antithesis of the concept of a person’s word being their bond. “But, it’s not, Rodney. There are people who won’t keep their word.” That’s right, of course. Some of the worst business decisions of my life were made while shaking someone’s hand and listening to them promise something. 

And yet, I’d prefer to go through life trusting people than not trusting people. I’d rather be disappointed by trusting someone than missing an opportunity by not trusting them. 

I’m not saying you should not protect yourself, your interests and your family. But, when something is the right thing to do, don’t not do it simply because a contract is missing. Do the right thing. 

Oh, and Project Management and backing up the files? The Vice President of Infrastructure decided that he’d cover for the client. That perhaps we could spend $550 because it was the right thing to do. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 
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