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Entrepreneurial Negotiation Skills for Success: Eight Painful Mistakes to Avoid

Entrepreneurial Negotiation Skills for Success: Eight Painful Mistakes to Avoid

by NJ Goldston

There are lots of lists of what to do as a new entrepreneur but often what not to do is just as important. The statistics confirm the older you are when you start your business the greater the likelihood you’ll succeed.

Compiled from a list of 2.7 million company founders who had at least one employee, a recent Kellogg Insight article cited findings by Kellogg School of Management, the Census Bureau and two MIT professors “that the most successful entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged and 45 years old even in the tech sector.”

According to Benjamin Jones, a professor of strategy at the Kellogg School, ” younger entrepreneurs may have a better sense of how technology can meet consumer demands” but “the longer you’ve been around the better your odds.” Basically, “older people have had decades to build the business, leadership, and problem-solving chops that help a startup succeed. And while they may be less tapped into certain consumer trends, especially around the habits of the young, they may know quite a bit more about other business opportunities.”

As we all know, you can beat the odds and lack of experience doesn’t have to be a start-up setback. Samuel Dinnar and Lawrence Susskind, authors of the recently published Entrepreneurial Negotiation, have stepped in to fill the skill set void for founders and entrepreneurs.

Their backgrounds are impressive. Dinnar, founder and president of Meedance is a mediator, consultant, board member, and venture capital investor as well as an instructor at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Negotiation Institute. Susskind is Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at MIT and head of MIT’s Science Impact Collaborative. An expert mediator and negotiation trainer, he is co-founder of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School where he currently serves as Vice Chair of Instruction, has advised more than 50 corporations, provided advanced negotiation training to more than 30,000 students and executives globally.

Their eight mistakes to avoid represent how mishandling critical entrepreneurial negotiations (using a fictional female protagonist in many instances) can wreck efforts to pitch a good seed idea, reach agreement on a term sheet, hire the right executives, seal partnerships, and close a business development deal. This is such a critical skill that the Harvard Law School recently opined “the importance of negotiation in business can’t be overestimated.”

Dinnar and Susskind don’t hold back. If you have exhibited any of these traits, remember, you’re in good, well-researched company. These are the most common negotiation mistakes founders, entrepreneurs, and a new generation of “builders” make in dealing with emotion, uncertainty, complexity, and relationships. Many of the fixes are from my own arsenal.

Mistake & Fix #1Entrepreneurs Are Self-Centered. Because entrepreneurs are deeply focused on their own interests when building a business, they often fail to recognize the needs and priorities of those with whom they have to interact. This focus on your own desires can blind you as an entrepreneur to clues that could lead to better outcomes for both sides, an important goal when building working relationships. For me, one of the best ways to flip this equation is envisioning the company culture you want to build from the ground up.

Dinnar and Susskind recommend clarifying the interests of everyone involved. This includes mapping wants and needs that serve as the basis for trades, followed by creating value across the table. Think about mutually beneficial opportunities. The next step is to leverage this as a negotiating tool.

Stay tuned for more to come….

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