The Role of Contracts: What Every Business Owner Must Know

In business, contracts play an essential role. They are more than just legal documents - they are strategic tools that can shape business operations, manage risks, and help foster strong relationships within and external to the business. Business Owners and Executives must understand and utilise contracts effectively to ensure cost savings and revenue growth, operational efficiency, legal compliance, risk management, and growth and scaling of their business. By putting in place the key contracting structures, Business Owners can set themselves up for success right from the start and take full advantage of the role of contracts in their business.

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Key Takeaways

  • Understand the different types of contracts, the role of contracts and their specific purposes in business.
  • Recognise the importance of contracts in shaping business operations and strategy.
  • Learn useful strategies for effective contract management and its impact on business success.
  • Understand the role of technology in enhancing contract drafting, contract review, contract administration, contract management and project management processes.
  • Appreciate the importance of robust contracts in various business divisions, including the Sales Division, Finance Division, Procurement Division, Legal Division, Human Resources Division. 

The Role of Contracts in Business

Contracts are the foundation for a stable and legally sound business environment. To many in business, they are simply an inconvenience, something to shove in the bottom drawer and never look at again. But this thinking can be dangerous, and can leave you behind while other businesses harness the power of contracts.


Here are nine reasons why contracts are crucial for businesses:

  1. Legal Protection: Contracts provide a legal framework that protects the rights and interests of the business and its stakeholders.
  2. Clarity and Certainty: They offer clarity and certainty regarding the terms of business engagements, reducing ambiguities and misunderstandings.
  3. Risk Management: Contracts help in identifying and managing potential risks, safeguarding the business from unforeseen liabilities.
  4. Operational Efficiency: Streamlined contract processes lead to increased operational efficiency and productivity.
  5. Relationship Management: They facilitate the establishment and maintenance of healthy business relationships through clear communication and expectations.
  6. Compliance and Governance: Contracts ensure compliance with laws and regulations, aiding in good governance practices.
  7. Dispute Resolution: A well-drafted contract provides mechanisms for dispute resolution, saving time and resources.
  8. Financial Planning: Contracts aid in financial planning by outlining the terms of payment, delivery, and other financial obligations.
  9. Market Reputation: Adherence to contractual obligations enhances a business's reputation in the market.

Organisational Structure and Contracts

To effectively manage its contracts, a business needs a well-structured internal system:

  • Legal Division or an external legal budget for legal intricacies of contracts.
  • External General Counsel for specialised legal and contracting tasks.
  • Sales Division to manage sales contracts.
  • Procurement Division for procurement-related contracts.
  • Commercial Division to oversee commercial aspects and negotiations.
  • Human Resources Division for employment contracts.
  • Finance Division for financial viability and compliance of contracts.

Note: These divisions have other functions as well, contributing to the overall management and strategy of the business. However each plays a key role in the contracting strategy of the business.

The Interplay between Businesses and Contracts

Understanding whether contracts are driving your business or if your business is effectively driving the contracts is crucial. This reflection about the purpose of contracts helps in aligning contracts with business strategy and operations. It's essential to think about these aspects to ensure that contracts support rather than dictate business objectives.


In a practical sense, this means regularly reviewing contracts to ensure they align with current business goals and market conditions. 


Recommendations and Action Steps

Here are some recommended action steps to take in relation to contracts. As always, consult with your Lawyer or give Rachelle a call to help you put these into place:

  1. Regular Contract Audits: Conduct periodic audits to ensure contracts are up-to-date and aligned with current business strategies and legal standards.
  2. Stakeholder Engagement: Regularly engage with stakeholders to gather feedback and insights on contract effectiveness and areas for improvement.
  3. Updating Contracts: Regularly engage with Legal to update your contracts to reflect changes in business strategy or the regulatory environment.

How Can a Business Owner or Executive Make Better Use of Contracts?

1. Educate Yourself and Your Team

Understand the basics of contract law and its implications for your business.


2. Develop Standard Contract Templates

Create templates for frequently used contracts to ensure consistency and efficiency.


3. Implement Contract Management Software

Utilise technology to track and manage contracts effectively.


4. Regularly Review and Update Contracts

Keep contracts current with changing business needs and legal requirements.

Rachelle Hare is an expert Contract Lawyer and has worked within businesses and advising businesses for over 23 years.


She can help you with all of these action items and is available to come out to your business and train your staff so they possess the right contracting skills (even without being Lawyers).

5. Train Employees in Contract Administration and Contract Management

Ensure that your team is knowledgeable about contract processes and best practices. If you identify a place where they don't have the experience or the knowledge, get in an expert like Rachelle Hare to conduct workshops and help upskill them.


6. Seek Legal Advice When Necessary

Consult with legal professionals for complex contracts or when in doubt. You'll save far more money in avoiding disputes than you will by avoiding using a Lawyer.


7. Negotiate Favorable Terms

Develop staff negotiation skills to secure terms that are beneficial for your business.


8. Understand the Financial Implications

Be aware of the financial aspects of contracts, including payment terms and penalties. Make sure you follow contracts, to avoid losing money on avoidable actions (eg late payment incurring interest charges).



Read our article on Improving Contracting in your Business



9. Focus on Risk Mitigation

Identify potential risks in projects and take steps to mitigate them, including through the terms of your contracts. This can have a massive impact on your bottom line!


10. Ensure Compliance

Regularly check contracts for compliance with laws and regulations. Get your contract templates updated as necessary.


11. Build Relationships with Contract Parties

Foster good relationships with those you enter into contracts with for long-term benefits. This can also help your business save money by avoiding costly disputes.

Legal Tech and Using AI to Manage Contracts

The advent of legal technology, especially AI, has revolutionised contract management.


Good AI tools can automate contract creation, track obligations, and alert businesses to renewal dates and compliance requirements. This technology not only saves time but also reduces the risk of human error, making contract management more efficient and reliable.


You can manually manage contracts and administer contracts, but contract management technology does make the process simpler.


Another thing to mention is the many Legal Tech providers who have developed contract drafting software and contract review software. In our view, it's not there yet and cannot replace a skilled Contracts Lawyer. But over the next 5 years, who knows.


How the Procurement Division Can Use Contracts Better

The Procurement Division plays a critical role in contract formation, especially in terms of supplier contracts. Procurement Advisers will go out to the market for projects or supplies, negotiate favorable terms, work with Legal to negotiate a contract and get it ready to sign, and (if there aren't separate contract managers in your business) ensure supplier compliance, and regularly review supplier performance.


Their proactive approach can lead to cost savings, improved supplier relationships, and better quality of goods and services - never discount the importance of this Division.


The Importance of Robust Employment Contracts and Services Contracts in HR

For the Human Resources Division, robust employment contracts are essential. They define the terms of employment, protect both the employer and employee rights, and set clear expectations. Similarly, services contracts for independent contractors need to be comprehensive to ensure clarity in roles, responsibilities, and legal obligations.


This not only minimises legal risks but also contributes to a harmonious workplace environment.


Conclusion

Contracts are strategic assets that can significantly impact the success of a business. It is important for business owners and executives to understand the role of contracts, put well-drafted contracts in place, and allow their staff to effectively manage contracts.


In doing so, business owners and executives can safeguard their businesses' interests, foster strong relationships, and drive their business towards growth and success.


FAQs about the Role of Contracts in Business

1. What is the primary purpose of a contract in a business setting?

The primary purpose of a contract in business is to legally formalise agreements, ensuring clarity and understanding between parties involved. It serves to outline the terms of a deal, protect the rights of the parties, manage risks, and provide a framework for resolving disputes.


2. How can contracts impact a business's operational efficiency?

Contracts can streamline business operations by clearly defining roles, responsibilities, and expectations. This clarity reduces misunderstandings and disputes, leading to smoother operations and more efficient management of resources and time.


3. Why is it important for a business to have a legal division or external legal counsel?

Having a legal division or external legal counsel is crucial for ensuring that contracts are legally sound, compliant with relevant laws and regulations, and aligned with the business's interests. Legal experts can also provide guidance on negotiations and risk management.


4. What role does technology play in contract management?

Technology, especially AI and contract management software, can play a significant role in automating and streamlining the contract management process. It helps in tracking obligations, managing deadlines, ensuring compliance, and reducing the risk of human error. While contract management can be carried out without these software programs (and, more recently, AI), it is important these days to take advantage of these tools where possible.


5. How often should contracts be reviewed and updated?

Contracts should be reviewed and updated regularly, ideally in line with major business changes, market shifts, or legal updates. This ensures that they remain relevant, effective, and legally compliant.


6. What are the risks of poorly managed contracts?

Poorly managed contracts can lead to legal disputes, financial losses, compliance issues, damaged business relationships, and reputational harm. They can also result in missed opportunities and inefficiencies.


7. How can a business ensure compliance in its contracts?

To ensure compliance, businesses should regularly review their contracts in light of current laws and regulations, seek legal advice when necessary, and implement standard procedures for contract creation, execution, and monitoring.


8. What is the importance of negotiation skills in contract management?

Negotiation skills are vital in contract management as they enable businesses to secure favorable terms, address and mitigate risks, and build positive relationships with other parties.


9. Can small businesses benefit from contract management software?

Small businesses can greatly benefit from contract management software as it offers a cost-effective way to manage contracts efficiently, track obligations, and ensure compliance, which is crucial for growth and risk management.


10. What should be included in a robust employment contract?

A robust employment contract should include clear terms of employment, roles and responsibilities, compensation and benefits, confidentiality clauses, dispute resolution mechanisms, and termination conditions.


11. How does effective contract management contribute to a business's market reputation?

Effective contract management contributes to a business's market reputation by demonstrating reliability, professionalism, and adherence to ethical standards. This can lead to increased trust and more business opportunities.

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Rachelle Hare and Shannon Drew, Blaze Business & Legal
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About the Author

Rachelle Hare

Rachelle Hare - Managing Director and Principal Practitioner of Blaze Business & Legal

Rachelle Hare

Rachelle Hare is a highly experienced Construction Lawyer and Contract Lawyer, with over 23 years of experience in Tier 1 and Tier 2 Construction Firms, Top Tier Private Practice and Government.

With 23+ years of experience as a Senior Lawyer, Strategic Contracting Adviser and Management Consultant in Construction Law, Contracts, Major Projects, Commercial Advisory, Compliance, Procurement, Contract Management and Risk Management, Rachelle has the rare skills to offer you seamless business advice and legal advice to help support your organisation.


As well as a Lawyer and Business Adviser, Rachelle has also acted as a Strategic Procurement Adviser, Compliance Manager, Strategic Risk Adviser and Commercial Manager.

Rachelle owns
Blaze Business & Legal, a combined Commercial Law Firm and Business Advisory Firm located in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Blaze Business & Legal assists a broad range of clients in the Construction Industry and related industries, and advises owners, contractors, subcontractors, NFPs and other organisations on a broad range of Construction Law, Commercial Law, Business Advisory and Management Consulting issues in Brisbane, Queensland and around Australia.

Rachelle also owns Blaze Professional Learning, where she offers practical contracting skills, hands-on experience in drafting and working with contracts, and industry insights to help Professionals upskill and advance their careers with real-world skills.

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