Dream of anything... and get it too ! ! !

Thursday, September 11, 2008
History is packed with instances of great dreams coming alive on the back of great negotiations... Every deal is negotiable; yes, every!

This is the story of a boy in his twenties. He was into the real estate business and this was his first deal. He wanted to buy an old dilapidated hotel named Commodore Hotel, near Grand Central Station on Forty-second Street in New York City. The hotel used to remain vacant most of the time. It had a sleazy club and the land on which it was built was owned by another bankrupt organisation Penn Central Railroad. The city was in a financial mess, so much so that no bank would even consider giving real estate loans in Manhattan. This boy planned to buy this hotel by convincing a bank to loan him $80 million to rebuild & transform it into a state-of-the-art hotel. It seemed an impossible task and when he discussed it with his lawyer George Ross, the latter thought the boy was totally crazy... but agreed to help him nevertheless. After two years of planning and rigorous negotiations, the young boy finally bought the land for $12 million and apart from other deals, even convinced the Bowery Savings Bank to give him a loan. Not just this, he managed to rope in Hyatt to become a partner in the deal and to fund half of it. Not bad at all for a first deal! Soon, the old Commodore Hotel was transformed into a beautiful hotel, which he named ‘Grand Hyatt’. Of course, he wanted to name it after himself, but since he couldn’t, he managed to name the restaurant inside it ‘Trumpets’. You must have guessed it by now; the boy was none other than one of the richest men in the world, Donald Trump! And though this was one building he couldn’t name after himself, the master negotiator has over the years dotted the American landscape with ‘Trump Towers’. Those are his skillful deals, his power to negotiate most effectively that have seen him rise to such heights. Love him or hate him – you can’t ignore him or his art of striking the best deals & his uncanny knack of negotiating even the most impossible situations.

Today more than ever before, people who can not just communicate, but communicate in a manner that they can convince the person on the opposite side, are the ones who will succeed. Conflicts are common and unavoidable – but resolution of conflicts is what finally guarantees success. Studies have shown that negotiation skills are among the most significant determinants of career success.

Know what you want to get what you want

A whole lot of people and businesses fail when people are not clear about what they want. Most often, they are not properly prepared and have no idea how much they can get, and as a result, they rarely get the best deals. Look at this deal – Quaker Oats acquired Snapple for $1.7 billion and sold it 28 months later for 20 percent of what it had paid for. Another one – Newell Rubbermaid’s CEO and original champion of the Rubbermaid deal, Daniel Ferguson; a long time after Newell bought Rubbermaid, confessed that Newell had paid too much for Rubbermaid. According to a study, fifty percent of M&A activities in the past 75 years failed to create value. All cases of poor negotiations.

Not many would be familiar with the name Leigh Steinberg; but “Jerry Maguire” might ring a bell. The movie Jerry Maguire is based on the life of a very famous sports attorney, Leigh Steinberg. During his 33 year career, Steinberg has represented over 150 professional athletes in football, basketball etc. When he started out, he was 26-years old, fresh out of UC Berkeley’s Law School and had one player signed in. However, it was the sheer power of his ability to negotiate contracts for the sportsmen that his company within no time became the most powerful agency. He negotiated a $49.2 million, six-year deal for one player, and the next year a record $11.25 million signing bonus for Ryan Leaf from San Diego Chargers. His record-breaking deals for the NFL players saw many people flocking to him, but Steinberg insists that every contract negotiated for his players included a clause requiring them to contribute to one or many charities – a small way to repay the community that helped shape them. That’s one aspect that many tend to overlook while negotiating.

Everything is negotiable

A good negotiation deal is not one where you win and fool the other party. No one likes a negotiator like that. Bill Gates and Microsoft are the quintessential American success story – but perhaps not the most loved. According to Paul Cormier, a 20 year software industry veteran, Gates is responsible for Microsoft’s win-at-all-costs culture making many of his own employees unhappy and uncomfortable with Microsoft’s reputation of a ‘Vicious Competitive Monster’.

“Wining-at-all-costs” is not negotiation. It’s intimidation or bullying. A good deal is a “win-win” deal. It’s the deal where both parties come away feeling good. It’s a deal, which has made Donald Trump and many more like him successful; it’s a deal like the one that Leigh Steinberg does for his players – where the player, the company, the society, all benefit.

According to Stephen Covey, most people think of only their ‘win’. A person with the “win mentality” thinks in terms of securing his own ends - but leaves it to others to secure theirs! Compare this to the “Win-Win” mentality, which means reaching up to that negotiation point where both parties feel good about themselves. This is mutually satisfying and increases the commitment of both parties to the deal or plan.

No wonder when Tom Muccio, an executive of P&G, encountered the world’s ultimate non-negotiable partner, Wal-Mart, it was his commitment and belief in the “win-win” option that helped him survive and sustain. He slowly built a relationship with Wal-Mart where he kept the focus on joint visions and problem-solving. Wal-Mart, which has always kept its focus on “lowest prices” while dealing with suppliers, found this style of negotiating pleasantly different. From 1987, when Muccio initiated the changes, to 2003, P&G’s sales to Wal-Mart grew from $350 million to $7.8 billion. Thinking “Win-Win” actually works!

If you are sure and clear about what you want, you will get it! Remember, everything is negotiable.

Everybody needs a good negotiator Be it resolving labour disputes, negotiating salaries, or signing up M&A deals, every situation benefits from a master negotiator. The ground breaking deal between United Auto Workers union and General Motors was the best negotiation done in corporate history in 2007.

UAW – America’s biggest and most powerful trade union – by signing the contract with GM ensured that industrial relations in America entered a new era with this contract. The unions put the old confrontational style behind them and worked on collaborative style.

Not just corporations, even countries need good negotiators to manage them. Those are geniuses like Dennis Ross who have worked for years and played a leading role in shaping US involvement in the Middle East peace process. He also helped Israelis and Palestinians reach the 1995-Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Be it labour disputes, strikes, nations at loggerheads – all it requires is a skillful negotiator to set things right.

There was one man who lived many decades ago who proved this ideology beyond argument, a man who out-negotiated the mentality of not just a person, a group, a corporation, or even a country, but the whole world. His name was Martin Luther King Junior... And all he started off with was a dream...

So remember if you can be a good listener, if you can visualise the end result & prepare your case well in advance, if you can sustain & hold onto your deal, if you can think like a dolphin – it’s the only mammal that can swim in a sea of sharks & yet survive (incidentally one of the best management book ‘Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive’ is based on the qualities of a dolphin and talks about how to “Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate and Outnegotiate Your Competition”) then congratulations to you – for you too can, like Martin Luther King Junior and many other successful people can dream of anything – and get it too!!!