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A good practice…Summarize the conversation.

We all are forgetful sometimes. Although a majority of business is conducted via e-mail, sometimes the most critical discussions take place on the phone or in person. It’s highly recommended you get into the habit of sending a brief summary of what you discussed. I don’t intend to provide you with a how to run your daily routine guide. What am saying is to help you avoid legal problems down the road.

I know this sounds like a bit of extra work, but here’s why it’s important.

Miscommunication. It’s not uncommon someone may think he actually said what he was thinking or thinks you understood what he may have said. Compound this by the cultural and language differences often found in the international business realm and it doesn’t take long to realize miscommunication is inevitable.

Writing down what everyone said and agreed to and then sharing it with the other person, will help avoid miscommunication that can cause you money and time. Now, I am not saying if you write down what was said there won’t be miscommunication or ambiguities in your e-mail summary. But, writing down provides you a record of what you think was said and agreed to, and allows both parties the chance to clarify.

This is important because some time later when you and your supplier are bickering over what was said two months ago, you can always bring out the e-mail with your summary notes.

Now there are two reasons why we never actually practice what we should do. One is the notorious “I don’t have enough time” excuse, and second, we don’t actually think there is miscommunication that needs to be clarified – until it’s too late.

But for those of you that want to have that fall back position, here’s a tip when you do this. Like the offer when forming a contract, be the person who writes down the summary to what was agreed. By taking the lead you can control the presentation of information, how it is presented, what it says, and of course share with your counterpart how YOU see the world – what you understood. Additionally, this will help avoid any intentional ambiguities the other party may have planted.

Oh, and it’s a best if you have them reply with a confirmation.

Mike Bellamy is an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center. He is also the author of "The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing" and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions.



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