When a Lawyer isn’t Enough

An attorney friend specializes in health care and higher education.  His assistance has been invaluable, ensuring that contractual provisions don’t put us in a legal trap at some future point.  He will tell you, however, that the work performed by his firm is not supposed to dictate the business arrangements.  The legal and contractual sphere is his strike zone. The business affairs are up to us.

All of us engage attorneys and auditors to ensure solid compliance and protection.  That’s just good sense. But we have a tendency to forge ahead by ourselves on the business side.  Some of these contracts involve complex provisions, millions of dollars and multiple years – even decades.  Twenty years from now our successors may well lament our lack of knowledge, particularly when it could have been mitigated by a few thousand dollars of expert assistance.

My advice?  Don’t be that person.

Dining contracts are a prime example.  A while back I was on a campus that had signed a decade-long agreement in exchange for a desperately needed capital infusion. There was a great party, I suspect, when that contract went live and the funds flowed in support of facility improvements.  My visit, years after the original soiree, witnessed more of a pity party. Those who penned the deal had long left, as had their successors.  The campus population had shrunk somewhat, meaning that finding another provider to pay off the remaining balance was a stretch, let alone generating badly needed capital funds.

A few months later, I was approached by a recently retired dining services executive who wondered if he could plie his trade under the CFO Colleague umbrella. His desire was to assist institutions in ensuring that their provider was living up to the contract and meeting quality needs expressed by the campus community.  He also wanted to help devise RFPs and to advise in the subsequent contract negotiations.  He joined us and was engaged almost immediately.

The University he supported could not stop praising the results of his efforts in generating significant sums – over twenty times his cost, just by auditing the contract and holding the provider accountable.  They will be measurably better off now and their successors less likely to be critical of these joint efforts years down the road.  Oh, and he will be advising them on the RFP process now.  More savings.  Better performance.

Add to all this the observation that Bill Campbell is a wonderful man, with a great heart for people.

My recommendation is thus to exercise caution whenever tempted to go it alone business-wise on longer term, sizable contracts, whatever they may involve.  Your lawyer is critical. Your auditor makes sure you are living between the lines.  Having an insider on your side for the business matters is even better. Seek one out before you sign on the bottom line.  And if your negotiations involve dining services, get ahold of our CFO Colleague, Bill Campbell (bill@cofcolleague.com).

Your current team, and your successors, will thank you.