Business Writing: How To Write A Memo Of Agreement

Business Advice:   Get It In Writing
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.

Probably the best business advice I have ever received is to get my agreement in writing. 

If I reach an agreement with another party about virtually anything–the price of a hotel room, when a roofing company will begin work on a new roof, the cost of duplicating cd’s, etc. and etc., I will write down the details in two places.

The first place is in an ongoing Word document that I call “Journal.”  I began the Journal years ago.  At first my Journal was a spiral notebook that I kept near my phone.  Whenever I spoke with anyone, I would make a note of their name, contact information, and background notes that were sometimes very detailed.  

My Journal became incredibly useful almost immediately.  Before I began a follow-up conversation, I would find the relevant note and refresh my memory.  I found that having a firm grasp on the details gave me a tremendous advantage.  I was “in the catbird seat,” as Southerners put it. 

Helpful as the Journal was, it gradually became unwieldy as months passed, and as the spiral notebooks multiplied.  The information contained in the Journal was useful–if only I could find it

That was years ago.  Then came the computer.  My instructor told me that I could quickly find anything in a Word document by simply hitting “Find.”  A light bulb went off in my head.  That very day I decided to abandon the spiral notebooks and put Journal on the computer.  The search function made the difference.  I did not use a sophisticated contact organizer for this particular task.  Just Word.  It would find anything no matter what order the information had been entered.  Why organize it?  No need.

One great advantage of my Journal concept is that I can share the Journal with my assistants.  I can send them an email or call them and instruct them to do a search on the Journal.  They then have the background information to make an informed decision, just as I do. 

The second place I write it down is in an email or a letter.  This written message will begin, “I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement.  Here’s what I understand we agreed to…”   Then I will spell out the details of our conversation. 

After spelling out the details, I will close with this statement.  “If you have any questions or disagree with the details of our agreement as I have described them above, do let me know within the next few days (Or within a week, or within 10 days).  If I don’t hear from you, I will assume that you have no objections to my statement of the terms of our understanding.”

I am not an attorney, and this is certainly not legal advice, but I have been informed that putting the terms of your agreement in writing will serve you in good stead in court.  It is not as enforceable as a signed and notarized contract, but it gives you standing. 

And a letter or memorandum of understanding does prevent amnesia.  You don’t want to work hard to reach an agreement, and then have it unravel days or weeks later because the other party did not remember it the way you remembered it.  It reminds me of any old saying:  “Good fences make good neighbors.”  A written record of your agreement is a very good fence in business. 

I have mentioned the Journal in scores of business seminars.  Many successful business leaders have told me that this is the best advice I ever gave them.  


Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “TheWords Lincoln Lived By” is in its 23rd printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd printing. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions and annual meetings all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225. Learn more at Atlanta Speakers Bureau or at his website. His latest book “Lincoln and Obama” has just been released by Audible.
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