Lunchtime lessons at Academi Xi. Service agreements 101 with Simbisa Law

Be Legally Covered is a slightly awkward name for the event I’m about to go to.

It’s lunchtime and I’m off to Exhibition Street to get the low down on service level agreements.

It’s week four or five of my tech / data / culture odyssey and I don’t mind admitting that taking on lunchtimes, as well as weeknights (and sometimes more than one event a night, including two tonight) is causing a backlog in the writing department.

I feel like I have a new job.

I remind myself that I do have a new job, but that writing the blog is not it. I am in the process of setting up a website. Remember?

The presentation is not exactly tech or data, but it is broadly ‘cultural’ and this is a ‘need to know’ situation. I’m starting a new business that involves working on site in people’s homes and handling their precious heirlooms, art and collectibles.  And it needs a website.

I only have half a law degree and some experience making and changing laws, so let’s just say there are some knowledge gaps. What is it they say about a small amount of knowledge?


  • If you’re in business, it’s wise to have a standard form contract (a Master form) with conditions tailored to your needs and the option to extend it / amend it.
  • Limit your liability to the value of the work to be done, including any work performed (or not performed) by a sub-contractor.
  • There are many kinds of insurances, but they’re not as expensive as you thought they might be.
  • Irrational positivity and avoiding difficult conversations are not a good reasons to not have a contract limiting your liability. Dumbass.

The What

The reminder note I received from the good burghers of Academy Xi (pronounced ex–eye, not zee) outlined what to expect.

The speaker today is co-founder of Simbisa law, Rugare Gomo.

‘Simbisa’ means ’empowerment’ in Zimbabwean. (I would add, that I did not know this. I was told it. I do not speak Zimbabwean. Not fluently anyway…)

I’m greeted at the door by joint co-founder of Simbisa, Luke Gallea, and both co-founders make a point of introducing themselves and learning my name. Gosh. Polite and polished. Someone’s been reading their Dale Carnegie.*

Rugare covers:

  • What is a Service Agreement and when it should be used
  • Whether you should be engaged as a contractor or employee?
  • Protecting yourself with appropriate limitations of liability
  • Who should be responsible for insurance?
  • Ensuring you are protected if your client fails to pay, or pays late
  • Clearly specifying who is responsible for tax obligations to avoid costly mistakes
  • How to use a Master Services Agreement to cover all work orders

The above paragraph was a straight cut and paste. I think it shows…

The Where

I’m at Academy Xi, (pronounced ex-eye) and I’m one of five women in a room of twenty people. Interesting.

This reverses the ratio in the lift five minutes ago, where it was 6:1 women to men until  the first floor gym. I did notice that I was the only person wearing office gear. I don’t mind admitting that I felt slightly resentful of people motivated to go to the gym during their office lunch break. If I’m honest…

Tim Rice –  the organisation’s Events Manager – not the guy who collaborates with Andrew Lloyd Webber, kicks things off and mentions that the group is an education group; That it hosts up to twenty events each week on various subjects.

Wow. My calendar is already quite full.

I’m curious about the difference between a Service Agreement and a Service Level agreement and fortunately for me so is the nice man in the second row.  It turns out, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet and, loosely speaking, both of the above mentioned agreements can be interchanged with one another to some extent.

Rugare is a talented presenter and keeps to time, whilst fielding all of our questions.

I’m concerned the nice man in the second row thinks that if his contract doesn’t contained levels that this means his client is not entitled to expect impossible, 100 percent service levels. I think that could do with being clarified. I would be pissed if my email service was planning to be out more than any of the time so putting in a number would at least set me up to know that technology isn’t failsafe.

I like that Rugare believes that the Tax Office will succeed in its bid to have contractors defined as employees in its suit against an unnamed global platform. It shows the horrible cynicism that pervades Australian corporates, (our banks, restaurants, convenience stores) and puts me off wanting to return to that world isn’t universal.

Next Steps

The conversation covers online platforms that support short term contract work. I wonder whether they do or don’t include conditions that address liability for damages and under performance the way Rugare suggests they might. I cynically think probably not and the answer seems to be some do some don’t.

I resolve to check.

The Ask

The firm is hosting a ticketed workshop on 12 September covering how to negotiate profitable deals with your clients. This means you’ll learn to tailor your own contracts.

The Sweetener

The firm offers a FREE 30 minute telephone strategy session that you can book online.


Simbasa 2

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