Start ups, lawyers, and my working contract

I recall being a little hurt when someone – a founder of a startup whom I respected a lot – said to me: if you want something done in your startup, don’t involve the lawyers.  This was interesting to me – being legally trained, as well as advising startups…  and in fact having my own startup.

20170529_103611Would they still have said the same thing if they knew I was an (ex)lawyer? When people see me as a management consultant often working with NFPs they can sometimes forget my first training was in law. And corporate law at that. 

But they had a point of course. Or at least if you take the stereotypes. 

Founder startup: needing to be agile. Take hold of opportunities yesterday. Needing to take risks (hell, the whole startup is by definition risky). The last thing a founder wants/needs is to hold back on action while i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. 

Lawyer: trained to minimise risk. To search for all possible risks and, where possible, control for them. Dotting i’s and crossing t’s is a lawyer’s reason for being. After all, prevention is better than cure. 

I’ve had both hats on to try and come up with a contract that does three things:

  • Has a meeting of minds in the legal sense
  • Isn’t complicated and daunting and therefore slows people down as they lawyer up 
  • Carries my brand and is authentic – is it possible for a contract to be a part of brand strategy? Check it out and be the judge.


Work for payment

1. I’ll complete work for you, which is [set out in an email, or attached.] We call it “the Project”.

2. You’ll pay me an agreed amount for the Project. 

3. I will invoice you for the hours I’ve worked each month, up to the agreed amount. We can agree a different schedule of payments and set it out as part of the Project. 

4. I’ll never ask you to pay the whole amount until the Project is complete.

How I work

5. I’ll use my skill and knowledge to the best of my ability. 

6. I’ll turn up on time. 

7. I’ll deliver the Project within the agreed time.

8. I’ll look and act professionally.

9. I’ll be courteous and respectful to everyone associated with you and the project.

10. I’ll be clear. I’ll be concise. I’ll use plain English in everything I write. 

11. I’ll listen.  

12. I’ll call you weekly during the life of the Project for an update meeting. Any concerns either of us have can be raised at the meeting. 

What I need from you (and you promise)

13. You will respect me and my advice, even if you dont agree with the advice. My advice will always be honest.

14. You will assist me to deliver on time by doing those things we have agreed you will do. 

Solving any issues that arise

15. If we disagree about anything to do with the Project then we’ll talk in good faith in an atempt to agree a solution. If we can’t agree  we will get an independent arbitrator, who we both agree on, and be bound by their decision. We won’t commence legal action under this contract. 

Other bits

16. Everything we talk about is confidential. 

17. You own the intellectual property, unless we agree something else. If we agree something else then it appears here.


NDIS: now for the REAL changes, or… six lessons I’ve learned implementing NDIS (changing business models)

20170418_064122While many disability services are coming up to their first anniversary of “going live” as part of the NDIS (or longer in some cases), others are just coming online.

Whichever camp you fall into, it’s extremely likely that you still have a long way to go on your NDIS journey.

When organisations say they need to be NDIS ready, the immediate question has to be “in what time frame?”

In the short term being NDIS ready often means complying with the accreditation provisions, and being able to operate under the scheme.

In the medium term an organisation should be looking toward training of staff and ensuring that the organisational culture is a person centred culture.

And in the long term an organisation needs to know how it will maintain a “competitive advantage”.  The NDIS is true market disruption. In the long term organisations that simply deliver what they always have will find it difficult to maintain clients.

With the emergence of services like, (the airbnb of carers), and other niche ways of service provision, organisations will need to be clear about their niche, market segment, value proposition and differentiation AND have a plan to hold on to that advantage.  In the long term this is the difficult bit, but ultimately this is what organisations will need to survive.

This blog focuses on some of the lessons that I’ve learned working with disability organisations in getting NDIS ready.  Oh, and solutions too!

1. Any change will affect the whole of the organisation. Systems approach, systems approach, systems approach.

Taking a systems approach can’t be overstated.  A part of the organisation can’t change without it affecting all of the other parts.  Get ahead of it from the beginning by taking a systems approach.

The solution: Understand the whole system to understand how each change affect all parts of it. All of the parts need to be on board with the change, which requires excellent coordination and communication.

2. A person centred service starts with the Board and has to become part of the culture, influencing the way every part works.

We all know the value of great leadership, and the board needs to take an active role in shifting the organisation to a person centred approach.

The solution: work from strategy down. Remember that change is a process and can’t all be done at once. Start with a market analysis and a business model analysis. Map the changes across the organisation and stage implementation.  Modelling is important.  Does the board have client representatives on it?

3. Cross organisation system change requires communication

As mentioned above, working together across a whole organisation requires communication, communication, and more communication.

The solution: One solutions is to convene a working group of senior people from across the organisation, who meet regularly. Appointing these managers as champions is good practice. There may be other ways to communicate across an organisation. It’s my experience that this gives the best results.

4. Person centred services require person centred design.

In the long run organisations need to know what their clients think. What are the things that block them or trouble them.  Do they see your services the same way that you think they see your services?

The solution: involve your clients. It’s not only best practice, but will build your reputation better than any other strategy.

5. There can be specific issues with respect to disability in Aboriginal populations, including access issues for reasons of shame, and lack of language around disability in many language groups.

Feedback from Aboriginal communities has highlighted these issues.

The solution: is not mine to devise! Principles of self determination mean working closely with the local population to identify difficulties and solutions for implementation driven by those communities. Person centred practice and self determination come from the same human rights framework.

6. The NDIS is true market disruption, and needs innovative thinking to address how the organisation will adapt.

Co-creation and innovation are buzz words.  There’s a danger that they get used loosely, or as a marketing tool – we’re an innovative organisation. Many that say they are, often aren’t.  For example, an innovative organisation needs to embrace failure. That’s where the magic happens.  If you’re culture only values success, then you’re probably not innovative.

The solution: Co design with clients, and a culture that fosters innovation. These concepts can’t just be words, but need to be reflected in the ethos, structure and policies of the organisation.

So there you go.  If you’re on your NDIS journey… keep going and I hope these points help organisations to shift their thinking if they haven’t already.