West Michigan is a wonderful place to do business. Most businesses have high moral ethics and are extremely trustworthy. There really are not a lot of cut-throat entrepreneurs that are looking to screw over others so they can advance their small businesses. At the same time, you should never conduct business with anyone on a handshake.
I know we like to think of the world as a great utopian society where a man is as good as his word and thus will always follow through on his duties. In fact I am sure there are people you do business with that you would “trust your life with.” In reality though, this is the real world and people out there with less than stellar business practices and misunderstandings and disagreements arise between even the closest of friends. What happens when you need a shipment to arrive on Monday to fill an order by Wednesday and it does not arrive until Friday? Without a document to prove the date of arrival, all you have is “words”.
Even more to this, Michigan law specifically does not recognize certain transactions that are not reduced to writing. Transactions that fall within the Statute of Frauds are considered null if there is no writing. These are often common transactions like if the goods purchased exceed $1,000.00 or if the agreement is between merchants. These types of agreements cannot be enforced and no defense can be presented so even costly litigation cannot help.
I have heard it before too, that some Grand Rapids business owners feel like they are insulting somebody’s credibility by asking that their transaction be reduced to writing. To this I say, that if someone’s handshake is that trustworthy then it should not be a big deal to put that agreement in writing. Also, as pointed out above, in the eyes of the State of Michigan some transactions do not exist unless they are in writing. These agreements also protect both sides and what business owner does not like that protection.
It is not difficult to reduce an agreement to writing. If the intent of the contract, the terms are expressed and both parties sign then you probably have a pretty good start. There are lots of details that can be overlooked that can create issues which is why it is advisable to consult a small business attorney to assist you.