Is a written contract necessary?

Answered by Suzanne Morgan

My company has worked with the same printing company for many years. We know what we are going to get as far as quality and price, so we send almost all of our print projects their way. Because we have a loose pricing arrangement, we don't even ask them to give us price quotes up front. Everyone seems to be very happy with this arrangement and it's a lot easier for me, as the print buyer, to manage.

A print buyer friend of mine who works for another company told me I should never do this; instead, we should definitely use written contracts or make the printer bid on all the jobs. Are written contracts or bids really necessary when we know that company will do the work?

In this case, I don't think so. Bidding print jobs isn't always the way to get the best price. Plus, your company, the printer, and you seem to be very pleased with this agreement. The printer knows what is expected of them and keeps your company satisfied with the results.

This type of informal agreement is often referred to as single sourcing. It can work very nicely if you believe the pricing, quality, and service are consistent and fair. Your company might be at risk if the level of service decreases or you think that you're being charged more than you should, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

When a printer and client agree to conduct a large amount of work, then I generally recommend written contracts. But I've seen many highly satisfactory relationships that haven't relied on crossing the I's and dotting the T's. Having said that, there are two things that are essential to making these open relationships work over the long run.

  1. Your print standards or standard operating procedures - all the little nuances of how you want your printer to work with you - are constantly documented and can be accessed by the appropriate people at your printer's facilities.

  2. You and your printer have frequent and open communication about both your needs and concerns.

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