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To the Letter

Cover your butt and get it in writing to really seal the deal.

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This story appears in the December 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In the ideal world of deals, all agreements would be in writing and signed by everyone involved. In the real world, however, deals are often struck without time to hash out a contract or when you know full well that the other side simply won't sign anything. In fact, sending out an agreement that never gets signed can look worse than never sending one out at all-in a dispute, your opponent will always be able to argue (correctly or otherwise) that because they didn't sign, they never actually agreed to anything.

When you can't get it in writing, a reliance letter is a good second choice. Basically, the letter confirms an oral agreement with a legal hook at the end: "If the terms contained in this letter are not a completely accurate description of our agreement, please notify me in writing immediately, as I will rely on these terms in moving forward with our agreement."

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