In 1625, Britain's answer to Machiavelli published a book, and edition of which has sat beside my bed for the last 2 years-his Essays. Here is what he has to say about negotiating:
'If you would work [negotiate with] any man, you must either know his nature and fashions, and so lead him; or his ends, and so persuade him; or his weakness and disadvantages, and so awe him; or those that have interest in him, and so govern him. In dealing with cunning persons, we must ever consider their ends, to interpret their speeches; and it is good to say little to them, and that which they least look for. In all negotiations of difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once; but must prepare business, and so ripen it by degrees.'
Let us be thankfull we shall never have to negotiate with Sir Francis Bacon!
Serious negotiations do not include management bargaining with personnel. Each requires different skills and many good managers should be excluded from serious negotiations. They have to much empathy. Important points to remember in serious negotiations include:
- Most of us are poor negotiators (including those sitting across the table).
- Most negotiations are unnecessary.
- Detailed preparation is of inestimable value.
- Whoever depends the least upon the outcome will usually prevail.
- Tenacity nearly always trumps eloquence.
- If in doubt, walk out.
As the owner of a growing start-up, do not permit professional advisors or potential purchasers lure you into interminable discussions and 'negotiations'. They are often little more than fishing expeditions. Lastly, on serious negotiations in general, it is worth engraving Marguerite de Valois's variation on an old Italian proverb into your sould:
'It is the same in love as in war; the fortress that parleys is already half taken.'