Bringing Your Team To The Negotiation Table

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I admit it, I've got World Cup fever. I have done my best to watch as much as I can to see soccer/football at its best. One of the amazing lessons of the World Cup is how much pure talent can be negated by teamwork. Take for example Italy, France and Greece for example. They are ranked 5th, 9th and 13th in FIFA World Rankings, yet they were unable to advance within their groups at the World Cup. These teams had many players on some of the World's top club teams and were unquestionable favorites coming into their matches. And yet, teams like South Korea and Japan were able to overcome huge gaps and talent to advance within their groups. It might be tempting to say it was the result of poor refereeing or even pure luck, but taking into account that each match lasts 90+ minutes there is plenty of time for teams to put into play a carefully thought out and well executed game plan that plays upon the strengths of its individual team members.

See the segway in action there? This same thinking can apply to your negotiation teams. However, much like anything in life, you can't just show up with a crack team of professionals and expect things to work out just because you have "all the right pieces" at the table. 

In order to get the most out of your team in negotiation situations, it's important to think about how to properly use your team.  Allow me to offer a 3-phase suggestion:

  1. Discuss the situation with the group, capture data/knowledge about the other side, brainstorm outcomes and discuss the negotiation timetable and process. This is where you discern the lay of the land, nail down a manageable timeline and BE CREATIVE! This is a great time to air out different ideas from the group - you've gathered them together to draw upon their collective knowledge, so be sure to let ideas be heard!
  2. Evaluate team strengths and weaknesses and assign roles accordingly. Despite the fact that we all have to do things we don't enjoy doing almost every day, there are facets of nearly every job in which your team members shine. Make sure they are spending time doing things they do well instead of wasting time trying to become better at things in which they're weaker.
  3. Convene after the negotiation to capture lessons learned and to discuss what went right/wrong and how things could be done better in the future. This is probably the most important step. Moving forward, it's important to catch and keep all the information possible to help out in the future. Often times one team member may catch an essential piece of data missed by other team members. If this information isn't shared and learned going forward, the same mistakes will keep happening!
The team approach is not always an easy one and certainly not always necessary. However taking the right approach can lead to amazing results! 

Good luck to all the teams and nations in the World Cup and Go USA!



Begin With The End In Mind

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One of the best ways to avoid being stuck in a bad deal is to consider - from the outset of negotiations / drafting - how to wrap up the relationship with the other party if things don't go as planned. Recessions happen, key people leave to go work somewhere else, products and services become obsolete and so on. 

Nearly all contracts provide for some sort of endpoint, this is what is commonly referred to as the "Term" of the agreement. This is your basic, if-all-goes-according-to-plan endpoint. Many contracts will also have an "Evergreen" element. That is, unless one of the parties specifically requests an end to the contract, it will automatically renew at the end of each Term. In planning your exit strategy, note any deadlines for notice to the other party if you do not want the Term to auto-renew. Just having a simple reminder on your calendar with enough lead time to make a decision about such auto-renewals can be extremely helpful. 

Next up is allowing for some kind of termination "for cause." Terminating the Term for cause usually follows a pattern of notice from one party to the other about a problem along with some time for the party in default to make good on the problem. If the party in default hasn't brought things back in line after the allotted amount of time the non-defaulting party can then terminate the contract. 

There are also many events that may warrant immediate termination or at least provide for a timeline for terminating the contract. These would include events such as one of the parties entering into bankruptcy, one of the parties being acquired by a third party, or even changes in the law that affect the parties' contractual relationship (especially important in contracts within highly regulated industries such as banking and healthcare). 

Finally, you may want to consider allowing for a simple termination of convenience. That is, one or both parties may want the ability to end the contract for any reason or no reason if the parties can agree to an appropriate lead time to wrap up the contractual relationship. There may be viable reasons for building in termination fees and contingencies for ongoing services during the transitional period through termination. 

Having an idea of some of the options available to you is only the start of your overall exit strategy. There are still several other options to consider, these include, but are not limited to:
  1. Confidentiality of the termination itself;
  2. Transfer back to original party or destruction of all confidential data; 
  3. Knowledge transfer; and
  4. Right to hire service provider personnel.
These ideas should provide you with a basic roadmap for forming your own exit strategy heading into your next contract. Just remember to begin with the end in mind!