Eliminate Vagueness for Stronger Business Agreements

Eliminate wiggle room in your agreements by giving concrete examples.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #440

Use Concrete Examples When Communicating Culture

One place concrete examples really shines is when communicating company culture. Federal Express’s original slogan was the best mission statement I’ve ever heard: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Great slogan. It told employees and customers what the goal was. But how far should an employee go in getting a package there, “absolutely, positively” overnight?

Lawyers hate concrete example, because they actually makes things clear.

There’s a story-turned-company-myth at Fedex of a delivery person who actually rented a helicopter to make sure a package got through. That’s a concrete example of the company culture.

(Their new slogan is “Our solutions connect people to possibilities.” There aren’t enough concrete examples in the world to make that piece of fluff mean anything. It’s the worst company mission statement I’ve ever heard. It sucks balls and gives no guidance about how to run the business. And when I say “sucks balls,” you know I mean golf balls.)

Use Concrete Examples When Going Out with Shmoopie

When you and your shmoopie are making plans, concrete examples also help. Shmoopie happily declares, “I’m in the mood for a tasty dinner out!!” BOOM! You’re already in hot water. Anything you say can, and will, be used against you. Because your interpretation of “tasty dinner” is, by definition, wrong.

So alternate with concrete examples that give a menu of options. Maybe you vary the price points and cuisines. “A tasty dinner sounds great! Are you thinking El Golden Palace sit-down tasting menu, In-’n-Out Pakoras, or McDonny’s Bloat Burgers?” By giving concrete examples and letting shmoopie choose, you can start to hone in on what might actually satisfy them.

Use Concrete Examples in Contracts

My favorite place to use concrete examples is in contracts. Lawyers hate them, because a concrete example actually makes things clear. So when you have a contract that says, “you’ll pay me for the logo I design,” add a few concrete examples.

“For example, (a) I design a logo and you love it, you pay me. (b) I design a logo, you hate it, we incorporate your feedback at least three times, and deliver a design. You pay me. (c) I design a logo. You love it, and refuse to pay me. You don’t get the rights to use it.”

If the lawyers fight you and insist the examples be removed, push back. “Why? Do you intend to take the logo and not pay me?” 

Be Devilishly Clever

When you’re making an agreement with someone, cover the big picture of the agreement and add concrete examples. Do it with work assignments, communicating policies, and making plans with shmoopie. That way, everyone is on the same page when it’s time to sign on the dotted line. And if the other person asks you to sign in blood, definitely double check the contract for loopholes. The Devil may be in the details, and you can do details, too. 

This is Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. I run programs to help people develop the kick-ass business skills they need to create an extraordinary life. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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