Handshake Deals

I’m looking for a manufacturer right now to make my products with recycled plastic.  The company I thought would be a great partner just turned me down.  Why?  Because I wanted them to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

They said that they never needed one before, and didn’t see the need for one now.  Of course, they have little to lose for refusing to sign it except for my small business offering.  I’m the one that has more at risk – my patent pending designs.

I admire the idea of a “gentleman’s handshake.”  Unfortunately, I have been burned before by such verbal agreements.  When things get hard as they sometimes do with any long-term relationship, it’s amazing how many people forget what was agreed to at the beginning.

It’s even happened when I did have a written agreement in place. Several times, I’ve had to go back through old emails and the contract itself to remind the other party what we had decided months or years before.

I don’t think that it’s necessarily most people’s intention to break a handshake or verbal agreement.  I just think that it’s easy to miscommunicate and/or to forget what might have been agreed to long ago.

At the beginning of my career, I was a Contracting (procurement) Officer for the US Air Force.  I was taught then that contracts were written, but ideally put aside afterwards and never referred to again.  These pieces of paper were merely a safety net in case there were any issues later.

Today, I still think it’s just good business practice to have such agreements in writing even if you fully trust the other person.  If anything, the agreement gives both parties more reason to trust because their intentions are clear, and it equally places the risk on both of them.

As for my manufacturing partner – the right one for me is out there and they’ll understand the need for such agreements.