Winning can be Losing

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In my business of commercial relocation there are times when I have to negotiate an invoice. It starts with an estimated cost, the job is won and performed, and in some cases the actual charges are more than the original estimate. Because commercial relocation is an inexact science, not everything can be known in advance, and when all is said and done, there may be a discrepancy between expected costs and actual costs. When that happens, I might have to discuss a possible resolution. Some people are hard liners and will not pay more than the estimate regardless of the circumstances or even if they request additional services to be performed. Other people pay additional charges without question. However most people are somewhere in the middle. I have learned that “winning” a negotiation, or getting the customer to pay all accrued hourly charges and materials against their will, may not be winning at all. The customer might agree to pay all charges, but they do so with the attitude that they will never use my services again. I believe that “winning” is a situation where all parties are comfortable, though not necessarily thrilled, with the final outcome. The very process of negotiation can build a stronger relationship and allow us to learn more about what makes the other person tick. Perhaps they are being told by their supervisor or CFO to pay as little as possible. Conversely, the person who performs the services might try to collect as much as possible. My point is that we should consider the long term consequences to all parties by strong-armed negotiation. I have developed many long term business relationships by trying to always be fair, reasonable, and honorable. It has paid great dividends. I don’t always “win” the negotiation, but I don’t burn bridges or bully people. Because of this, I sleep better at night.

The Final Days of Jack the Dog

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My dog Jack died yesterday. He was blind and could hardly walk at the end of his nine year life. Jackie Boy was a furry tan colored Tibetan Terrier. He is survived by his sister Betsy Lynn Delight, a black and much more aggressive and Alpha Tibetan. Jack was my first real dog I raised and walked on a regular basis. Jack never saw a tree he didn’t piss on. At the end he was often disoriented and running into walls. He had many nicknames in his short life: Jack the Ripper (when he tore things), Jumpin’ Jack Flash (when he hopped onto things) and of course the moniker of his human brother Wedge (nee Benjamin) Jack the Dog (aka JTD). In his latter days we affectionately referred to him as Blind Man Jefferson after the musician of the same name.

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I loved Jackie Boy, even though he was the single most frustrating dog to walk because of his propensity to urinate on every single tree and to poop on trees in the urination motion instead of open grassy areas. Go figure. I miss him already, but know he is out of his physical misery. And no, I don’t believe in heaven for animals (or humans for that matter). Dogs are a treasure that has been largely given to me by my girl friend Judy. I have never met anyone in my life who loves and is fascinated by dogs as much as her. She talks to them, brushes them, bathes them, feeds them, and cuddles them. I walk them. But now there is one, and I adore Betsy. So long Jack Man. My life is better for having you in it.

A Most Awkward Networking Experience

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Last night I experienced the most awkward networking meeting. I was in a small group “troika” with two other gentlemen. I knew both of them, but they did not know each other. I have changed their names to disguise their identities. Jeff is a real estate broker. Bob is in public relations. It came up in discussion that Jeff’s wife (who has a different last name than Jeff) is a divorce attorney. Bob then mentioned the absolutely terrible experience he had with his ex-wife’s attorney during his bitter divorce. He went on to mention that the attorney was part of our networking group. Jeff asked pointedly for the name of the attorney, and Bob admitted that it was in fact Jeff’s wife. At that point the meeting was extremely awkward to say the least. I kept quiet and watched as both men kind of softened their positions. Jeff acknowledged that divorce attorneys often become very aggressive on their clients’ behalf, and Bob apologized for his strong negative statement about Jeff’s wife. I could tell that Bob was softening his true feelings about the attorney, and Jeff was trying to smooth over the discomfort.

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These things happen, especially in large networking groups. Everyone doesn’t necessarily get along with everyone else. But this “coincidence” reinforced the notion that “you never know.” It could have been a much more direct confrontation and argument, but Jeff’s gentleness and Bob’s softening of his position made it more bearable.

Peaks and Valleys

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Everyone has a slightly different biorhythm or body clock. Some people are early birds, pop out of bed, and are full of energy before the sun comes up. At the other extreme is the person who probably sleeps late, might lie in bed before getting up, and stays up late (“night owl”). There are many variations in between. This factor of circadian rhythms has a huge potential impact in networking. Many networking groups have early morning meetings, which favor the “early birds.” For the night owls, these meetings tend to be an annoyance, and do not work well for them. As we go through the day, we have peaks of energy and valleys of fatigue or lack of energy. When we understand our own characteristic pattern, we can schedule our most important meetings at the time that is best for us. For example, I am an early bird and do best quite early in the morning. I am writing this post at 7 a.m., the time a night owl is probably still sound asleep. Conversely, my friend Bob who is a writer wakes up around 10 a.m. and usually stays up well past 2 a.m. He gets his best work done after midnight. The important point is to identify your biorhythms and tailor a schedule that favors your peaks and minimizes your valleys.

Blending Personal and Business Conversations

When all is said and done, effective networking is a blend of personal and business conversations which lead to introductions, referrals, and business transactions. It is also a blend of face-to-face contacts and social media. Though our goal may be to get business, that won’t happen with purely business conversations. In order to make a connection, it is useful to share something personal about yourself and be open to the sharing of others. This humanizes us, and prevents us from being commoditized. The personal sharing can be about hobbies, city of origin, schools, children, pets, or travel. I have found that if a conversation is purely about business, it is difficult to truly connect with another person. I recently had a coffee meeting with someone. I wore my UCLA sweatshirt, and she immediately smiled and indicated that she also attended UCLA. I invited her to a Bruin Professionals meeting, and we have since expanded our business relationship. In order to establish rapport it is critical to have human component beyond business conversation. It doesn’t matter so much what it is about, as long as it has a personal element. Once a personal connection has been established, you can build on it in future conversations. The point here is to refrain from purely business conversations. Don’t be in a hurry to discuss business, especially when the other person wants to share something of a personal nature and get to know you better. With social media, platforms like Facebook can allow us to share personal things that may lead to the deepening of rapport with others. Pay attention to social cues so you can build better and stronger relationships.