Control Freak

Take The Lead

There's no point cutting a spectacular deal if you let the other side bleed you with their deceit or incompetence. Try these steps for taking control:

Communicate clearly. This will minimize misunderstandings. Be specific about all your expectations. Attach them to the written contract. Give all your instructions to the other side in writing.

Build conditions into your deal. Ideally, everything you have to do should have a condition attached; if it's not met, you're off the hook. Conversely, the other side should never have an excuse for not performing. For example, when banks loan money to companies, the banks insist on tons of carefully constructed conditions (like limits on capital investment and working-capital requirements) that give them the right to call in a loan at the first hint of trouble. On the other hand, the borrower must make payments no matter what.

Make them get your approval. Make key items subject to your approval. It keeps you in the driver's seat.

Inspect everything. Drop by the construction site, pop in at your tenant's place or stop by your franchisee's store-there's no better way to see how things are really going. The law doesn't always permit such spot checks, but when you can, make these rights part of your deal.

Let them report to you. Why not make yourself the boss in the contract? Give yourself the right to manage the day-to-day, cosign checks, receive reports, supervise and direct.

Next month, in part two of this series, I'll talk about escape clauses, ex-tensions and collateral.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Control Freak.

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