Golden Business Ideas

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

Everyday Negotiation Preparations
Do you think the only time you have to negotiate is when you haggle over the price of a new car or a multi-million-dollar acquisition? The fact is, we negotiate every day—over the deadline for a report and even for what you are expected to contribute to that report. Yet most of us don’t prepare for these everyday negotiations—and often some people don’t even adequately prepare for the big deals. So here are some tips for how to prepare for any kind of negotiation. Beware: Some are so obvious they often are overlooked—at the negotiator’s expense.

Come with alternatives: Never enter a negotiation without having an alternative in mind that you can accept. Options spare you from buckling too quickly if your first choice is rejected, and it saves you from appearing desperate.

Research precedents: Be ready to report on past agreements; this approach will strengthen your hand.

Discover interests: Try to find out your opposite’s true interests. Often he or she will purposely cloak them, knowing that such intelligence bolsters your position. For example, if you knew your opponent had to meet a deadline, you could use that information to trade for something you wanted.

If the other party reveals what’s behind his or her demands, you may be able to skip over adversarial negotiations and quickly come to a win-win agreement.

Hypothesize: Since in most cases both you and the other party will be cautious about revealing information that will give the other side a leg up, consider using hypothetical scenarios to create a comfortable atmosphere. For example, ask, “What if you needed the delivery by…” or “If price wasn’t an issue, what would be?”

Probe: If you learn that price isn’t the only issue blocking the agreement, ask for more information about the other concerns. With that extra information, you may be able to come to a compromise.

Ask questions: In many instances you could consider responding to questions with a question. For example, if a prospective employee asks what salary you’re offering, respond with, “What salary range were you thinking of?” That’s another way to get your opposite to reveal more than he or she originally planned—giving you a small, but significant, advantage.

Check-Writing Caution
Don’t use abbreviations on checks. It’s easy to change IRS to MRS—after which a name can be added. General rule: Spell out all payee names.

Rule-Bending Advantages
Most company policies are created for good reason, and they should be followed— most of the time . But following the rules too strictly can be a major financial mistake. For example, the accounting department should, on occasion, be prudently flexible when it comes to extended payments and eased restrictions if it means satisfying a major customer.

STANLEY ZAROWIN is a freelance writer in Zionsville, Indiana. Mr. Zarowin retired from the JofA in 2003. His e-mail address is zarowin@mindspring.com .

An Invitation
The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to contributing editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at zarowin@mindspring.com or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.

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