The Folly of not Reading the Fine Print in Business

In Success

Once upon a time, according to ancient Greek mythology, the goddess of dawn fell in love with a Trojan prince called Tithonus. She was so besotted with him that she went to Zeus, the king of the gods, to ask that Tithonus be made immortal.

Zeus agreed, but Dawn had been foolish — she had asked for (and received) eternal life for her lover, but she had forgotten to ask for eternal youth. The result was that Tithonus just got older and older and older, though he never died.

Dawn at first looked after him at home, nourishing him with the food of the gods and dressing him in rich clothing. But eventually, when he became absolutely incapacitated, Dawn locked the poor man in an inner room of the house and shut the doors.

You could hear his “ghastly babbling” ever after, but he could not move a limb.

Does the Greek parable remind you how, whenever you sign up for something, you have to scroll through the ridiculously long “terms and conditions” contract full of legal mumbo-jumbo? And because you never actually read it, you just click “I Agree” or “I Accept.”

Take this one example. We have just brokered yet another mega financial deal with the Chinese. This despite fears that the government’s increased borrowing from the East could plunge the country into a debt overhang.

Treasury secretary Henry Rotich disclosed that more than 50 per cent (Sh174 billion) of the Sh340 billion financial agreements signed with China recently is a commercial loan.

The loan will attract an interest rate of 4.4 per cent per annum over a period of 12 years, with a five-year grace period.

It is feared that the new borrowing is likely to worsen the country’s external debt position currently estimated at Sh850 billion, according to data from the National Treasury.

“As long as the debts are used for economic growth then the debt does not pose any serious challenge,” Mr Rotich told reporters in Nairobi , adding that debts are used for generating future wealth.

Do you ever stop to consider all of the papers you receive in the course of your day, but which you do not stop to read?

Do you read the warranties on every product you buy and the terms and conditions on every website you visit? Do you even bother to read every cash register receipt to confirm the time that a store allows for returns? I didn’t think so.

We are inundated in paper and verbiage every day. We receive notices and policies and invoices in the mail.

We receive packing slips, receipts and other documentation with our purchases. We find ourselves signing contracts and other legal documents. We should read them all, but we don’t, and that can cost us.

Explicitly, business functions and operations are in alignment with the rules, regulations and fine print of the legal system.

You must become affluent in print-in reading, as well as understanding the rules and regulations of the system. This will enable you to align the business in a way that is most fortunate and advantageous.

Today most major infrastructure projects — from the Thika Superhighway, the Eastern and Southern bypasses and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) expansion — have a Chinese connotation.

I encourage you to spend some time reading, or get your advisors to read, the fine print. Also understand what you sign, or may have already signed away.

Remember the fine print is designed to guard the other person, not you. Once you have read it, you will be able to more readily understand the deal.

Meanwhile, let us wait for the standard gauge railway, Lamu Port, Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor and the Greenfield Terminal project at JKIA.

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