In my 38 years of representing entrepreneurial companies and small businesses, I have learned there are three essential business skills everyone needs to master if they are to grow a business of their own:
(OK, if you're a lawyer or some other professional, add client management as a fourth.)
If you're looking to raise money from investors, negotiating is the most important business skill of all, and probably the hardest to do, for a number of reasons:
--It is stressful.
--It can be confrontational.
--Often there are winners and losers.
Thousands of books have been written on negotiating, including one by our current president. Even yours truly has weighed in on this topic with a popular YouTube video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=camtt3FFpRw).
There is a Goldilocks problem with all of these books. They are either too theoretical -- talking more about mathematical game theory or Zen philosophy than the actual negotiating process -- or too granular, with too many stories of actual negotiations that don't tie together into a set of common instructions most businesspeople can follow.
I am happy to report that there is finally a book on negotiating that is just right for my readers. It's titled "Authentic Negotiating," and it's authored by my longtime friend, keynote speaker and fellow traveler in the venture capital wilderness Corey Kupfer (www.coreykupfer.com).
"Authentic Negotiating" focuses on the three types of transactions during which an entrepreneur is most likely to need negotiating skills: negotiating with investors, negotiating with strategic alliance partners and negotiating mergers and acquisitions deals (M&A).
Kupfer focuses on the three essential traits negotiators need to develop in order to be effective:
--Clarity -- being crystal clear on the outcomes you want to achieve, what the true bottom line is and under what circumstances you will agree or not agree to a deal, all without being carried away by emotion.
--Detachment -- doing the deal if you can achieve your objectives and walking away if you can't.
--Equilibrium -- As Kupfer puts it: "staying centered, calm, and clear. Not getting thrown off by the tactics, techniques, or emotions of the other side, or your own emotions."
Corey also drills down the six most common reasons negotiations fail:
--Lack of preparation.
--Getting emotional or otherwise losing objectivity.
--Lack of integrity on either side (or sometimes both sides).
For Corey, negotiating is a rational process involving enlightened discussion -- not a game, and certainly not a theatrical performance -- and he's exactly right. For entrepreneurs, the best negotiations are about building a relationship for the future, not beating up on the other side or "winning at all costs."
As The Rolling Stones once put it, "You can't always get what you want/ But if you try sometimes you just might find/ You get what you need." Too many clients of mine have won the war but lost the peace by negotiating too aggressively or holding back key information that came to light (too late) after the dust settled on the paperwork.
"Authentic Negotiating" is probably the best book I've read about the types of negotiations I routinely handle for my clients. Corey is not only a leading venture capital lawyer in New York City (www.kupferlaw.com) but also a successful entrepreneur in his own right and a former New York chapter president of the Entrepreneurs' Organization, so he knows whereof he speaks.
Even if you own several books on negotiating, buy this one.
And if you are looking for a fine wine to knock back while reading Corey's book, have I got a deal for you!
As most of my readers know, I have a YouTube channel with over 40 instructional videos for entrepreneurs (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCahNH8FgCHT0fFt0cONZj0A). In my flagship video, "How to Sell Anything to Anybody" (www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNe7hUAkx4M), I talk about the two reasons people actually buy things in the real world -- not needs and wants, as all the textbooks say, but rather fears and passions. That video -- and that message -- has been viewed by over 200,000 people in just about every country on Earth.
One of those viewers - owner of the Cantine Sardi winery in Verona, Italy, wrote me last week to tell me he was so inspired by my video that he has decided to name his limited edition 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella "Fears and Passions" (www.cantinesardi.com/amarone-2011). At 195 Euros a bottle -- about $235 plus shipping -- it's not cheap, but at 16.5 percent alcohol by volume (about 4 percent more than a table wine) it packs a punch worthy of a Cliff Ennico presentation.
Soak off the label and put it on your computer as a reminder of how to sell effectively. Keep Corey's book nearby to remind you of the right way to negotiate. Now all you need is an inspiring memento to keep your books and records properly.
I'm working on that ...
Cliff Ennico (email@example.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.