The Negotiator Magazine

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The result of this size disparity is that major corporations have an advantage in personnel time, reallocation of resources to keep their current business operating, deep pockets for travel expenses and an array of in-house experts to support their teams. They begin negotiations, therefore, with a distinct advantage. You need to plan to overcome as much of that strength as possible.

Experienced corporate negotiators know these differences also. The overwhelming majority will work with you if you do the initial planning to manage the differences. Some may ignore it and others may exploit this difference. In fact, however, it is not in the corporationís interest to destroy your capability as a firm in the negotiations themselves.

I would suggest that you keep your team small if for no other reason than to assure essential resources remain in place to effectively operate your current business. That has to be your Number One priority. Therefore, your negotiating team is probably between one and three people. You might use a carefully prepared outside consultant, the president of your company and/or an inside resource person as a team. Since the future of your company is potentially at stake here based on your assessment of substantial risk in this enterprise, the president would seem a logical first choice. Whether or not this is wise in your case is a whole different topic. I have seen small company presidents perform brilliantly and I have seen presidential egos destroy deals in the first session.

Whatever you do, it is important that you select your team first and relay their backgrounds promptly to your corporate contact. If you include an attorney, you will probably meet another attorney, if you use your financial officer, in all likelihood, you will find a financial person on the corporate team. Your goal at this point is to contain the team sizes and avoid specialists. Your corporate counterpart is likely to follow your lead. If they do not, your negotiators simply will refer specialty areas to their back-up team for follow-up.

Your strategy through these negotiations must rest on resource containment. If you try to match the corporation in resources at the table, you will surely lose the contest. Your specialists need to be identified, regularly informed and occupied with keeping the business operating in your offices unless called upon.

The location of negotiations is never a trivial matter and in this case it is a major one. Among your tactics might be to propose alternating meetings between each partyís site. This is critical not only to establishing negotiating parity, but as a check on human wear and travel costs. If distances are lengthy, then move to place negotiating sessions at a mutually convenient mid-point location. This has the added advantage of encouraging both parties to stick to schedule and avoid delays for both sides.

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