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4 contracts every business should use

It's sometimes said that "the biggest mistake you can make with a contract is not having one at all." Contracts offer you significant protection over verbal agreements or "handshake deals."

If you're fairly new as an entrepreneur, here are four types of contracts you need to know about right away:

1. Partnership agreements

If you're going into business with anyone else, a partnership agreement is important -- even if that other person is a best friend or family member. It's wise to put all expectations about payment, decision-making processes, contributions and ownership rights down in plain language. All parties should be able to clearly understand what they are agreeing to do.

2. Terms and conditions agreements

Your business will most likely have its own website. If you provide services or goods over the internet, you need to protect yourself with a "terms and conditions" agreement. Most websites require customers to click off their agreement to relevant company policies before they access a service online.

3. Nondisclosure and noncompete agreements

You need to protect your business against intellectual property theft. Without nondisclosure and noncompete agreements properly in place, you could find yourself competing for business in a flooded market or against former employees.

4. Outside party or vendor agreements

You need to have pretty clear agreements with anybody involved in your chain of supply and distribution. Otherwise, even minor miscommunications can end up causing a legal battle between you and a vendor or you and a supplier.

Most of the time, the key to a sound contract is making certain that it's clear, cohesive and legally correct under state laws. Boilerplate agreements, like the kind you can find online, lack the tailoring that can be done to make certain that your contracts are useful and valid.

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