As you know, contracts and agreements take many different forms. There are your typical multi-page hotel contracts, and there are banquet event orders and letters of agreement. Some are short and sweet; many are filled with “fine print.” All of which, when agreed upon, bind each party to certain stipulations. Some are written to favor the venue, some favor you and your organization, and some come with the sting of a stick if you don’t read the fine print.
Attrition is always first when talking about contracts. I am often asked “How can I avoid it?” My response is always, don’t agree to it. But in this ever-changing world we live in, there are no constants. There always is more to do, less time to do it in and, most often, agreements get “skimmed” for pertinent details, signed and faxed or scanned, only to later discover the “Oh, by the way” that was overlooked.
For example, I am working with a new client that decided to do a private dinner for their best clients one evening during their annual trade show and educational event. They contacted an upscale hotel they had a relationship with to gather information for this three-hour event for 50. In addition to a great dinner, a short presentation and some entertainment also was contracted. A short list of audio/visual needs was compiled and the hotel was asked to “submit a bid” from their outside A/V contractor. When the estimate was received, it was immediately determined that by using the same company that was providing all of the equipment for the trade show, it would save a sizable amount of money.
So … the client notified the venue that they appreciated the estimate, but were going to handle it through other means. An e-mail was sent to the client, reminding them that in the contract, there was a line stating that penalties (totaling nearly 30 percent of the estimate) would be assessed if they used anyone other than the in-house provider. Amazingly, this was neither detailed on the proposal, nor discussed when the agreement was signed. I believe that both parties are responsible for making sure, before a pen is put to paper, that all is completely understood, and that no assumptions are made, by either party. A five minute call to go over the agreement could have save this client a lot of lost time, and additional cash.
This is a relationship business, but it is a business. Many of us get very close to our hotel and venue sales teams. We go to ball games together, share stories and assume that they are looking out for our best interests. In most cases, there are, but at the end of the day you have to ask yourself one question…”Who pays them?” The answer to that question is never you, which means that they are bound to do the best they can for their employer and to comply with directions and policy.
Take time to ask questions. Take time to seek help if you don’t understand. Take time to study publications or websites from time to time to stay on top of emerging trends or changes that may make you more valuable. This industry ROCKS … just make sure you don’t get hit by one.
All the best!