The Handshake Contract

Have you ever heard, ‘back in the day we made deals on a handshake’? I imagine that those were the good ole’ days when people did business on trust. Could you imagine today, closing a deal on a handshake? Absurd, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be.

When you genuinely care more about your client, than your wallet, the form of love that emanates from your character is trust. Today the common slogan is “people do business with people they trust.” Unfortunately, because a lack of trust has swept across our land, business partners now need to fill out contracts, non-disclosure agreements, indemnity agreements, partnership agreements, and so many others. All of these contracts are overwhelming and, above all, create distrust.

Back in the day, people conducted business relationships on a handshake. When a homeowner needed a concrete walkway installed, he would ask his neighbors for a good mason. He would call the mason, who would come by that day to give him a price. As soon as he was available, the mason would begin his job and ask the homeowner for the supply fees, which he gladly gave. Once the job was complete, the homeowner handed him the remaining balance in cash and said: “Thank you for a job well done.” They would sit on the stairs, look at the beautiful new walkway, and enjoy a glass of wine together. Life was good back then, and people cared about people.

Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16:14

Now today, let’s reconstruct this story. You google a mason in your area and find a few that have beautiful websites and good reviews. You then interview them for the job. They all send you a proposal within the week with estimated fees. So then you call the one with the highest price and try to get him to reduce his fee by bargaining with the other proposals. You go back and forth with each one of them and finally choose the mason that you think will do the best job. Now before getting any deeper into this story, you are three days into bargaining. Ugh! Shortly after, you come upon a negotiated price, which should have been given upon the initial proposal anyway. So after days of negotiating, he emails you a contract, which needs to be signed before any work can be performed. The contract is two pages, with words written in an 8 point font. You can’t read the small letters without your reading glasses, the words litigation and arbitration appear numerous times, and you need to pay an enormous retainer before you ever see a contractor at your house. How does this create trust? It doesn’t! Not at all!

The problem is that many small business owners do not trust clients anymore, clients do not trust business owners, and the disconnect from trust gets entangled in the web of business dealings. Business owners should care more about their clients than their wallets. Yes, this may sound a bit anti-capitalist, but it’s not. I believe in an economic system based on private ownership. But I also believe in a world where people should want to help others. If you take the time to talk to your clients, listen to your clients, and find out what they really need – this will open up a world of opportunities for you. Forget the dreaded contracts for a moment, find a way to help your client, and they will want to help you. Build trust from the very beginning. Don’t try to tease him into buying a Mercedes if he can only afford a KIA. Sure, it will give you a bigger commission check, but it will put him in unnecessary debt. How does that build trust? If you can provide your clients with what they truly need, I can assure you that they will give you what you need. So the next time you give a handshake, remember it is not just a gesture, it is your official contract of love!  That’s how you do business on a handshake! 

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

James 4:17

One response to “The Handshake Contract”

  1. Love your advice. Recently ‘contracted’ ( a simple one) with an international distributor. I was ‘advised’ by an attorney who charged over $600 an hour that o not only use him for a contract but should pursue legal counsel in that country as well. As I spoke with various size companies, I used my gut instinct to evaluate the conversation and level of trust which landed a nice relationship in which the communication is key. Also asked for references in the US which verified my gut feeling about the company and owner and his family business and values.


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