Negotiations can be fun. And, they can really suck. Usually, it’s a little of both, and a lot of one. I’ve recently spent a few months working on a potential licensing deal that recently has gone the wrong way — that happens, and as many have said before me, it’s to be expected. You need to be able to walk away.
But, I try to learn from each negotiation, to be better the next time. In this situation, the partner was overseas, and that made things extremely difficult.
My recent negotiating mistakes:
- We spent too much time negotiating in e-mail, and not enough time just talking on the phone or face-to-face via Skype.
- We didn’t get others in the room often enough. It can help to make sure you’re all saying, and hearing, the same things
- We were both right, in our own heads, about remaining differences. It’s totally possible for both sides to be above board and yet be misunderstood. If you trade enough e-mails and have enough discussions, you’re bound to contradict yourself.
- Finally, I conceded on some important things early in the process, because I thought we were very close to agreement. It then made concessions on the other side so much harder later on, when it seemed like we were dug in and not being reciprocal.
So, lesson learned — I hope it can be saved, but if not, then it wasn’t meant to be.
The one rule I try to never make is to enter into a deal that I don’t want to live with. Signing contracts is easy — operating as a business relationship over the long term takes trust and mutual respect.
Thanks to Mark Suster for the ‘Time is the Enemy of all Deals‘ blog post — I’d love to see some of his negotiating tips on non-financing negotiations. I bet he’s got some rules to live by that would help me.