As a Small Business Owner or Entrepreneur, we find ourselves always negotiating. We negotiate with our vendors for better prices/terms. We negotiate with our spouses to spend just a few more hours at the office before we come home for dinner.
I believe everyone’s views and methods of negotiation are as different as our taste in music. My profession as a business broker certainly involves negotiations at most every step of the long process of buying and or selling a business.
Someone “needs” to sell their business, he “needs to sell at this price”, according to all the other Business For Sale, his price is 3 times what other like businesses are asking, I find myself “negotiating or discussing” the merits of his target price.
My previous position as an owner of a small business with 25 employees and handling manufacturing, transportation, multiple office locations, and distribution required constant negotiation. I used to formally review my employees on an annual basis. They generally expected a raise. Before the meeting, I would calculate what the company could afford, set a range and meet with the employee. I never viewed this process as a meeting that allowed negotiation on wages. I viewed it as a means to allow bi-directional feedback, but the wage increase was not an arbitrary number. Very often employees would ask for more, I think just because they thought that is what they were supposed to do – which is fine with me. They viewed this as a negotiation, I viewed it as something else. This was just part of my personality or philosophy on negotiation. I had fantastic long term employees and we would later negotiate days off, holiday pay and other items, but raises were not a point of negotiation.
Again, I think we all have our own unique views and ideas on negotiation. Very often how ones negotiates may be a matter of his or hers personality. Other time “someone told me or taught me” how to negotiate and that becomes the norm.
Currently as a business broker I do have to negotiate terms and conditions of me helping a business owner sell a business. The line between negotiation and discussion does become blurred and for me I think it is fine to have business negotiations and business discussion become one and the same thing.
1. I find I don’t get so caught up on the concept of negotiation and semantics. I find that we have a business decision to resolve, we have 2 parties seeking to resolve it, and the 2 parties work together to seek resolution. Put yourself in the position of having options and the process has the potential for the best results.
2. Its not always about price. I have been through the process of negotiating leases on a facilities, annual purchase orders with major suppliers, and larger purchases of capital equipment and many other “negotiable situation. Very often the person that I am trying to reach agreement with is very strong and firm upon the price they believe is needed. And in many situations I have been willing to accept the price desired by the other party, BUT I make absolute sure the other party hold true to every other term and condition within the agreement. So my position is OK let us go with the price you desire, but it is mandated that delivery date, guarantees, support, followup and every other item involve with this matter is followed completely.
At times I feel that such value can be added through the other terms that the actual price is really a value to both parties. Or as it relates to my current profession as a business owner selling a business, I will give you a $50,000 price reduction, but I want a personal guarantee on the buyer, I want 8% interest instead of the 7% interest the buyer is offering for me to finance my business, and I want the owner to stay on as a free consultant for an extra 3 months. SO the person buying the business gets the reduced price, and the seller gets some real added value.
3. One more point about price. How many times have we been working through a deal and felt the need to drive the price down to a level that the seller is willing to accept but not really happy with. Then a week later when we want this little extra help or assistance or concession and we hear “We’re already losing money on this deal and we really cant help you with that.”
4. Really a good deal is a deal that is good for both parties. Sometimes one party can leave the “negotiating table ” knowing that it is a great deal for him/her, and knowing that the other party is “taking a hit”. How does that help sustain an ongoing relationship. There are businesses that are ok with the “one and done” concept and have little regard to the effect on the other party. I think our globe is fairly small, and getting smaller and I aspire, plan and count on all business relationship being perpetual.
Again the example about buying or selling a business. If you are selling a business and you want a price that is higher than the actual business can justify, and if you provide some seller financing to the buyers, what is going to be the result of you getting this inflated price. Very likely it results in the buyers of the business, not being able to make payments to you, going into default, and you having to deal again with the business that you originally sold because you had not longer wished to be dealing with it.
5. Don’t mistake negotiating with wishing or hoping. If you know the terms that you need to attain to make the deal make sense to you, be prepared to walk away from the deal. Are you making an offer and hoping/wishing the other party takes it because you know you want or “need” this product or service? Be prepared to walk away form the deal, again try to put yourself in the position of having options.
If someone is wanting to buy a Towing Business and makes a bottom line offer to someone selling, it helps the potential buyer knows that there are 3 other similar towing businesses for sale in the area and is fully prepared to pursue these other options.