Developing Exclusives – The Written Agreement

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Aug 16, 2011

The agreement to work on an exclusive basis with your client can be confirmed either verbally or in writing. However, as a wise man once noted:

“Verbal agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.”

The exclusive relationship is established verbally but should be confirmed in writing and signed off by both parties. If you are dealing with a reputable client who is sincere about utilizing your services on an exclusive basis, there should be no valid reason why they would not sign a document that confirms that to which they have already agreed. Therefore, we will concentrate on written agreements.

In the process of establishing an exclusive relationship you must determine:

  1. What elements of an exclusive relationship hold the greatest value for your client.
  2. The viability of the job specifications and the selection criteria.
  3. The level of time, energy, and resources required from you to effectively meet the client’s needs.
  4. The level of process adaptation required to effectively and efficiently service this client.
  5. From a potential employee’s perspective, the attractiveness of the client’s organization and the positions on which you will be working.
  6. If prior experience or activity on the opening(s) will unnecessarily restrict the nature and scope of your efforts on their behalf.

Once these points have been clarified and you and your client have agreed to work on an exclusive basis, you need to construct the written agreement. Written agreements should be developed and signed whenever you establish a relationship that can be classified as an:

  • Exclusive Contingency
  • Engagement Fee or Partial Retainer
  • Standard Retainer
  • Recruiting Services or Hourly

All of these agreements may include many of the standard provisions you currently have in your normal fee agreement. Additionally, the agreement should:

  1. State that the person signing the agreement is authorized to bind the client’s organization to the terms of the document.
  2. Establish that the services will be provided on an exclusive basis.
  3. Outline the process that will be followed, as well as mutual responsibilities and specific accountabilities.
  4. Define how internal candidates, internal and external referrals (whether solicited or not), and walk-ins (including mail-ins and e-mails) will be processed.
  5. Clearly define “what” constitutes acceptable performance on your part.
  6. Define whether or not any agreed upon payments are “progress payments” or “installment payments.”

Although most of these agreements can be structured without utilizing an over-abundance of legal terminology or “remedies” clauses, the specific circumstances may require this approach.

Any written agreement should be entered into with caution and therefore you need to pay particular attention to three areas:

  1. Be careful when stating specific time or performance provisions.
  2. Make certain that all key provisions are in writing.
  3. Do not begin your service process until you have a signed agreement and where retainers or engagement fees are involved, a check in hand.

Exclusive relationships that are confirmed with written agreements are not developed easily. However, when properly established and structured, working on an exclusive basis allows you to better focus your resources in achieving results while positioning you as absolutely indispensable to the success or your client’s organization.

If you would like to receive examples of the various agreements that apply to exclusive relationships, just e-mail your request to:

As always, if you have questions or comments about this article or wish to receive my input on any other topic related to this business, just let me know. Your calls and e-mails are most welcome.

View the whole ‘Exclusives‘ series:

  1. The Power of Exclusives
  2. The Presentation
  3. The Written Agreement
  4. Q&A and Final Thoughts — coming next week…
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