Remember when someone’s word meant something?
I can still recall the days when a simple firm handshake sealed a pact. No need for lawyers or pages of documents with footnotes to sign in quadruplicate. You simply looked your potential partner in business squarely in the eye and moved forward in earnest and with best intentions.
So, what happened? Somewhere along the way, we stopped trusting each other.
Unfortunately, precedents of bad behavior set the tone for a bad business environment. A litigious society, further, forces one into an often defensive stature where it is imperative to protect yourself against people who say one thing and do another. To be sure, even supposedly “fool-proof contracts” designed to avoid future disputes, are often not worth the paper they are written on.
Thankfully, it is not all “doom and gloom” and Gordon Gekkos
hellbent on stabbing you in the back in order to feed egos and fatten back pockets. In fact, in the wake of high-profile cases of corporate deceit (from Enron to JP Morgan), there has emerged a movement in the business world towards renewed honesty, integrity and transparency.
Portraying and maintaining a positive image and reputation are important again. (Just look at the NFL and the intangibles, beyond talent, that helped make Tim Tebow a first round draft pick).
Today, I still prefer the handshake to seal a deal and I continue to maintain many arrangements, in particular with colleagues, sans paper. Who knows, maybe we are on the path to once again doing what we say we’re going to do as a rule and not an exception.