If you make promises, consent to deadlines and give
undertakings, you need to deliver what you promise. This will
enhance your reputation as someone who does good business and help
you avoid bad outcomes like loss of business.
We all know what constitutes good business practice
In life and business terms such as "duties" and
"obligations" are bandied about quite frequently.
If I were to ask you to define those terms, it would be a
relatively simple task. We appreciate that it's good business
to fulfil our duties, responsibilities and obligations to our
clients and colleagues.
But do we really fulfil those obligations? Do we actually adhere
to the precepts that make good business?
Lawyers who don't fulfil their obligations are taking a big
According to the Civil
Dispute Resolution Act 2011, lawyers are obliged to try to
help their clients resolve disputes as quickly, inexpensively and
efficiently as possible. They are supposed to adhere to this
principle not just because the Act says so: it is at the core of
their ethical obligations as lawyers.
Specifically, the lawyers involved in the case failed to take
genuine steps to resolve the dispute and failed to file a genuine
steps statement prior to commencing litigation.
As the judge noted scathingly: "this is the sort of conduct
that brings the legal profession into disrepute, that significantly
undermines the efficient disposal of civil litigation and that has
the potential to erode public confidence in the administration of
justice in this country".
Fulfilling obligations is important for all businesses
While the above example is specific to the obligations and
duties of lawyers to their clients, its circumstances are broadly
applicable to the greater business realm. Even if you are unlikely
to face a costs order for failing to comply with your obligations
to your corporate or business clients, you may face other bad
outcomes such as a loss of business and damage to your
It's common to make promises, consent to deadlines and make
undertakings. It's part of business. What's important is
what we do to ensure that we keep our clients or customers happy
and fulfil our obligations to them. If you have made these
promises, good business dictates that you actually need to
Four tips for good business
If you make a promise, keep it. People are
generally reasonable. If a customer is trying to subject you to
what you regard as an unreasonable time frame for the completion of
a task, make a few enquiries. Chances are that the customer has
their own client or customer pressing them for completion of the
job. Perhaps together you can reach a mutually agreeable
Pick up the phone. With continued advances in
technology, the business world has the potential to become very
impersonal. Our worlds are full of text messages, emails, updates
and tweets. Pick up the phone and call the client. You get an
immediate response to your query and new or different ideas might
come out of the conversation (two heads are better than one).
Understand your client. Don't just limit
your understanding to the current project or task. Get to know your
client, their business, their people, what drives them and their
Encourage feedback. It is important to create
an open and honest relationship with your client to ensure they
feel comfortable providing feedback on your work and your
relationship. At the end of the day it is better to know what your
client really thinks, as it will ensure you continue to deliver
exactly what they need.
By ensuring you fulfil your duties to your clients and
customers, you will be creating an environment in which their
business and your business can flourish. Keeping your side of the
bargain will always help you to avoid bad outcomes.
On 12th November 2016, new laws will commence to protect small businesses from unfair terms in standard form contracts.
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