by Jonathan T. Howe, Esq. | December 01, 2011

It's that time of year again, when we go through the ritual of making resolutions that might last for at least -- well, let's not go there. Here, however, are some concrete suggestions on changes to make to your negotiating and contract practices.

Advice for All These resolutions are intended to apply to both the supplier and the planner, with differing degrees of applicability.

1. "I will read any contract and proposal from front to back and thoroughly understand it before I submit it or sign it." Too many times we get the excuse, "Gee, I did not know it was in the contract." If it was in there when you signed, you're going to have to pay the price.

2. "If it's important to the success and integrity of the event, I will make sure it is in the agreement."
An incomplete contract is a self-inflicted wound. Don't assume an important element is covered. If it is important to the event or to your employer, make sure it is in the contract. If it is not there, it won't happen.

3. "I will not be afraid to say, 'I don't know.' " A lawyer is not needed for every negotiation or determination of the contract language, but if you see something you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask. And beware of buzzwords. What does "rack rate" really mean? What is a "first-class hotel"? Define them. And when you need help, be sure you contact a knowledgeable attorney. The old adage is true: A lawyer's best friend is the person who writes her own agreement.

4. "I will be civil." This is the hospitality industry, not the hostility industry. Too often there is a lack of politeness, respect and just basic civility. Negotiations should lead to the development of a partnership, not a misguided cry of "win/win" or "I have won it all." Work toward an agreement where both parties share in the risk and reward.

5. "I recognize that one form does not fit all." Further recognize that a "standard" form provided to you is designed to favor the party who wrote it. Don't be afraid to contest the form, and be sure that whatever agreement you sign reflects the entire bargain as mutually agreed to, not just what the original form began with.

6. "I will stay current." This industry changes minute by minute. Stay up-to-date with your own organization and with those vendors you are relying on to fulfill any agreement.

7. "I will stay in touch." When bad news happens, it might not be your fault, but I sure can blame you for not sharing it. Make sure there is a good communication channel between you and your clients/vendors. This helps, regardless of your position, to solve problems and move on.

8. "I will take every opportunity to assure the safety and security of my people as they travel to and attend my events or my property." Make it a point to meet with those who are responsible for security and safety, separate and apart from the sales discussions.

9. "I will increase my participation in my profession." Volunteer at and/or attend educational opportunities. You'll meet new friends, get new insights and support the health of the meetings industry.

10. "I will enjoy 2012." Happy New Year to all. May it the best one yet.