Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Deal-Making is About Relationships

Here we are at the end of 2020. What a year! Today, I’m offering up a solo-cast that leads back to the most basic truth about deals: deal-making is about relationships. As I share often, almost every business deal is either the start of a relationship, or the continuation of an existing relationship. There’s just no way around it, and it’s a key part of how I teach about the deal-making process.

Also, we just celebrated our 100th episode with guest Joe Apfelbaum! It was an incredible interview, and Joe shared awesome insights about his deal-making prowess and partnership experiences. 

Relationships are a Key Deal-Making Ingredient

Whether you’re in an acquisition or merger, or you’re creating deals with partners, vendors, or suppliers, relationships are a key element. You name the deal, there’s likely going to be a relationship being established, built, or leveraged. 

The journey towards a deal is usually paved by relationships as well. Your broker, your agent, your banker, your partner, your friend — these are the relationships that position us to know who we need to know, get people to the deal-making table, and start the deal-making process.

That’s what makes relationships such an important part of both business and deals, not to mention our day-to-day lives!

2020 Highlighted How Essential Relationships Are

In 2020, relationships played a key role in my life for even more reasons than usual. 

The support, guidance, connection, and opportunities that came from relationships during this hard, long year were key for me. Not just for growth, but for peace, strength, and stability. Now, more than ever, I know that connection with others fuels me, fuels my personal growth, and fuels my business.

I know that many of you have had to make major pivots this year, and I’ve seen again and again how relationships can truly pave the way to make those successful. Even as things have been hard, relationships with family, friends, and industry professionals often provided a key element that allowed us to turn things around, make the best of the options available to us, or otherwise find a way to navigate this year.

If you’ve been part of my relationship network this year as a client, a friend, a podcast listener or guest, a DealDen member, or otherwise: thank you. I truly appreciate you, and I hope to continue together with you into the new year!

Know, Like, Trust: Business Relationships Pave the Way for Deals

People want to do business with people they like. It’s just the truth! 

When it comes to deal-making, nothing much changes. When you’ve built that know, like, trust factor via real relationships, you’ll find opportunities seem to naturally appear. Why? Because when someone is thinking about who to offer a partnership to, who to strategize with, who to make a deal with, they feel best if they’re doing it with someone they know, like, and trust. 

Being in a relationship with someone builds confidence.

Worried that you’re not well positioned when it comes to relationships? Well, there is no magic pill that will develop them overnight! In fact, it can take a long time to build relationships. As the old Chinese proverb says, however:

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

Another note: Just because deals are technically transactions doesn’t mean that your relationships should be described that way! People sense when you’re only interested in them because you want or need something. If you only set about to build relationships because you’re trying to get something, it won’t work the way you hope.

Instead, practice nurturing your current network. Add value. Seek to serve. Find a way to genuinely support someone else. Connect with people you’ve possibly just “not seen” in the past. If 2020 taught you anything, let it be that relationships matter and are always worth investing in.

Listen in to hear my full thoughts on the connection between deal-making and relationships!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast..

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Deal-Driven Growth

Business Partnerships Deals

Today we’re diving into business partnerships! Many businesses have more than one owner; you can spread the risk, add expertise, double your network, and share necessary tasks. It makes sense!  Adding a partner, however, isn’t as easy as just signing someone new on. From business issues to legal structuring, we’ll talk about the important things you need to know!

Fundamental Business Partnership Considerations

Business partnerships often arise when a new company starts. They might also arise when a new partner joins an existing business owner within their company, or when multiple businesses comes together.

However your partnership starts out, there are a few fundamental “buckets” you’ll want to consider.

Bucket #1 – Decision Making & Control

Who makes the decisions on what kind of things? Who has voting rights?

There are various levels of decisions that occur in any business. There will be distinctions within the partnership for who is in charge of what. For day to day decisions, there is often minimal documentation. Partners usually have tacit agreements about areas of oversight in order to keep things moving.

Once we branch into larger areas, however, clarity becomes key. Imagine one partner is a ⅔ owner and is a ⅓ owner. Does the larger majority holder automatically control all decisions? Do they have the final say? If no agreement has otherwise been made, this will be the default setting. (Possibly with a couple of exceptions under state law.) Alternatively, you may have a supermajority or unanimity requirement. That would impede a majority owner from making decisions without a minority owner’s approval.

Questions of selling equity, hiring/firing key employees, incurring debt or acquiring other companies?

You need to be aware if one partner has more decision making power than the other. All parties within the business partnership should have clarity around the level of decision making control they have.

I provide my clients with a list of extraordinary transactions for the business partners to review as they consider business partnerships. These transactions include large decisions like bringing on new partners, spending a certain amount of money, or otherwise making larger decisions. It’s crucial for business partners to get clarity on these matters from the get go!

Additionally, you’ll want to consider equity. Will everyone in the entity have the same class of equity? It’s not uncommon to create an A Class for founders, and a B Class for others buying in later. However, there are so many equity and capital structure variations that they need to be tailored to your specific needs and desires. Keep in mind that this is something that must be decided and created, not something that automatically happens.

Bucket #2 – Economics & Cash Flow

Who holds the purse strings? How does the money flow?

Just because someone holds a certain percentage of a business does not mean they are entitled to that percentage of the split. (If three people own a company, it is not a given that compensation must be split into even thirds.)

For instance, within a business partnership there may be a consideration given for services or contributions in addition to ownership. Whether this is paid as a salary, as a guaranteed payment, or as an additional distribution, it is important to understand how each member of a business partnership will be compensated for their role in the company.

Will the compensation element be directly tied to ownership elements? Or are there other factors that may be just as important, if not more so?

It’s much better to gain cash flow and economic understandings from the outset, rather than assume that others are in agreement and find out later that there are resentments and confusion.

Bucket #3 – What ifs?

What if someone dies or becomes permanently disabled? If someone retires? What if someone wants to leave the business? 

One important decision you should make within your business partnership is what will happen if a partner passes during their time as an owner.

If a partner dies and there is no written agreement, their share of the company will pass to their next beneficiary from their will. This could be a spouse, child, or relative. In an instant, your business could have a new business partner who, very likely, knows nothing about the business. For this reason, buy/sell provisions should be included in the operating or shareholders’ agreement for the business partnership protect the other living partner/partners from being forced into a business partnership in which they did not intend to be.

A buy/sell gives partners the right and ability to retain equity by purchasing it from the deceased’s estate. This is a powerful form of protection that can prevent a company from moving into the hands of an unintended party. It’s also a gift to the family, who is able to monetize their ownership and be compensated for their family member’s role. Ideally the estate or family receives fair compensation, and it’s a win/win for both parties.

In terms of being able to buy those shares back, we most often recommend a term life insurance policy that has been set up as a cross purchase. As a funding vehicle it won’t hurt the company’s cash flow, and allows partners to quickly compensate the family and retain shares via a buyback.

To hear more about how disability insurance can come into play, listen to the full episode.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider retirement expectations. Along with retirement criteria, you should discuss potential non-compete/non-solicit agreements. These would come into play if a partner leaves without retiring.

If a partner were to leave, what would happen with their clients? Is there a way to divide the business if members want to dissolve the partnership at some point? Are there buyout provisions in place?

The truth is, there are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to business partnerships. There are too many nuances to just pull a pre-formatted agreement off the internet. You can’t just use the one your friend used for their company. Like with the old Fram oil filter commercial: you can pay your attorney and other professionals now, or you can pay them much more later. That’s what happens when things weren’t done right the first time around. You end up having to clean them up or deal with a dispute.

Listen to the full episode on business partnerships here!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Conversations About Difference Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating

A Different View of Deals & Negotiations

My guest today is Zoltan Istvan, who is a world leader in the field of Transhumanism. He’s also a vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 2020. I’m excited to have Zoltan on. He brings a different view of deals and negotiations, and how that plays out in the political realm.

More About Transhumanism

Transhumanism is a social movement. It contains many millions of people around the world that want to use science and technology to radically modify humans and the human experience. This can include anything from exoskeleton suits that will allow elderly or disabled people who have lost mobility to walk again, or chips implanted in either your brain or in your hand.

It can also include things like genetic editing, where we try to eliminate cancer through radical types of genetic therapies. Transhumanism is about applying radical science to human beings and our lives.

In 2016, Zoltan was nominated to run for as a Transhumansim presidential candidate. Zoltan believes that America actually received a science-based candidate really well. Although he acknowledges that the party never had a chance to win, they did get their message out, with over 100 million views of their content, 6th best of all candidates.

Deals & Negotiating in Politics & Journalism

Zoltan shares that he has several businesses and has been an entrepreneur for years. However, politics takes the cake in terms of deal-making. There are constant divisions, factions, and differences in opinion. If you want to be nominated as a candidate, you have to be able to combine factions, make deals, and bring people together.

The complexity of political deal-making in today’s divisive social atmosphere is intense. Zoltan noted that political deals often differ from business deals in that they tend to be less directly about money. Instead, they are about positioning and leverage.

The person who best masters compromise often ends up the winner.

Zoltan’s work in journalism required similar negotiation skills. When a journalist wants to create a story based on a certain person or group, it’s necessary to find ways to help people feel safe in revealing their truest selves. It really comes down to trust, and your ability to build trust with the other person as part of creating a deal together.

Building Trust as Part of Deal-Making

Because deals always involve people at some level, the power of trust cannot be overstated. No matter how amazing a deal might seem, it’s incredibly hard to get someone to put their signature on something if they don’t trust you.

In journalism, you have to be able to show someone that opening up to you and sharing their story is going to be better for them and their lives in the long run. And that can be a hard sell if trust has not been established.

So, politics and business share the same truth: Without some level of trust, it’s really hard to get a deal done.

Zoltan’s background includes reporting in a lot of war zones. As a result, he’s seen that generals and military commanders are very hesitant to speak with reporters. He had to prove that he would report the facts and create stories that were accurate. The modern, “click-bait” style reports that are common on social sites today do the exact opposite. They may be entertaining and compelling — but they do not build the sort of trust necessary to get to a deeper, bigger story.

Existential Risk & Transhumansim

Zoltan shares that transhumanism focuses quite strongly on the reality of existential risks in the world. There are plagues, health problems, and nuclear threats. He believes that reallocating government money into researching and addressing these existential threats is vital. In addition, it would be a foundational role for transhumanist political leaders in the future. This would clearly require a great deal of political deal-making. This would also involve the boundary-pushing science transhumanism is known for. Because of this, there are likely going to be conflicts with more conservative or traditional religious leaders.

For example, artificial wombs are reaching a place of viability that means they will be an option in the upcoming years. The Catholic Church has long held a position against abortion. Their perspective here will be interesting. What if they could see artificial wombs as an abortion alternative that allows a woman to opt-out of pregnancy while also protecting the babies life and making it possible for the child to be born full term and adopted?

Zoltan points out that innovations in science and technology almost always signal new deals on the horizon. From what will be accepted, to how something will be funded, produced, marketed, and used: deals are a necessity.

Building trust will continue to be a key element of allowing various sectors and factions to come together. This is necessary in order to create the best world for us all.

Listen in to the full episode here!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Authentic Deal-Making

Referable Brands Help Grow Deals

This week’s guest, Michael Roderick, shares so much valuable information about the power of creating a referable brand. When you can get people talking about you when you’re not in the room, more folks will come your way. Some of you may think this only relates to growing organically, but that’s not true. People who have brand value beyond just sales are that much more attractive as acquisition targets. They’re also set up better for possible joint ventures, strategic alliances, and more. Referable brands and deals were made for each other!

Organic Growth & Unique Selling Propositions

As a deal maker, Michael differentiated himself with a unique selling proposition. He appealed to the people with whom he was dealing. He points out that every industry has vulnerabilities. If there’s a normal doorway that everyone is trying to use to get into the space, where are the windows? What other model can you use? How can you be different?

As humans, we are wired to look for contrast. And when you take an approach that is high-contrast to what others around you are doing, you’ll draw attention naturally.

People will talk about what you’re doing, and they’ll remember that you were different.

In Michael’s case, he combined his creative and business interests in the realm of Broadway. Rather than taking the fundraising approach that he saw everyone around him taking – rasing money in exchange for a producer credit, he looked for the proverbial “window”. In his industry, that looked like initially raising money without asking for any credit. This gave him access to more shows. He could then present a portfolio of potential shows to investors and setting up events for theatre companies and actors as a way to raise money.

In the course of putting these events together, Michael started meeting people and getting known. From off-Broadway producers to Broadway producers, he built a reputation that served as the basis for his growth.

And as he grew, he got questions —

People wanted to know how he was meeting these big names, how he was hosting these events, and how he was raising money so effectively. Part of his answer revolved around understanding who was on the other side of the table.

The Benefit Doesn’t Have to Be Financial

Broadway isn’t usually about investing to make money, which means the selling point isn’t going to focus on financial gains. Even though a large part of his role was based on financials and raising capital, Michael understood that what mattered to the people he was making deals with wasn’t just dollars and cents.

On Broadway, there’s an old saying:

You can’t make a living, but you can make a killing.
By its nature, Broadway is high risk, high reward. And the reward people most wanted wasn’t about the money. Rather than try to force a financial focus that wasn’t there, he had the awareness to consider what mattered most to the people who were doing the investing.

In this case, it was often experiential. Often Broadway investors have theatre backgrounds, and their investment exchange is attached to outcomes. They’re interested in learning more of the process, connecting with producers or actors, or otherwise gaining enjoyable experiences in the theatre community.

Michael shared that he often felt out how exciting a project opportunity may seem to a potential client. If they didn’t have an intrinsic desire for a certain project, he never pushed it on them.

Most investing scenarios are similar. You can share the value behind a deal. You can also share why you think it makes sense, but you shouldn’t want to force it. The right person will see the value in what you’re offering, and they’ll step up to the plate.

Negotiating with the “Halo Effect”

Using simulated networking experience, Michael was able to identify common behavior patterns that cropped up during social and networking interactions. He was also able to build a framework to help people do better.

He recognized that many of us don’t consider how to package ourselves in order to get others to talk about us. But when other people DO share about us with their friends and acquaintances, we can start to harvest the power of a referrable brand.

When your name is frequently getting dropped in positive, powerful ways, you walk into the room, the conversation, or the negotiation with the “halo effect”. The positive regard and social clout you’ve garnered pave the way for any sort of deal or interaction you may encounter. It also brings you into contact with more people and connections, which means collaboration opportunities abound.

This packaging of ourselves is something we have to be intentional about. All of us have unconscious competence; things we do that we are good at, but that we hardly recognize. You may find it worthwhile to work with someone who has a bigger picture view of who you are and what you’re doing, because it’s quite likely that you’re missing some of your own points of genius!

(You can go all the way back to an earlier episode to listen in to how Ramon Ray garners affiliate deals using this type of approach as well!)

To learn more about income ceilings, re-positioning, deal-driven strategies, and more, listen in to the full episode!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Authentic Conversations About Difference Authentic Leadership

How to Keep Your Business Going During a Family Emergency

In the month of April, I had the opportunity to travel quite a bit for work and for pleasure. If you have been reading my articles for long, you know that I am a big advocate of living an integrated life. As a business owner, I have a certain level of control in the day-to-day work that I do, but it is not always easy.

The best laid plans can fall away when a family emergency rises to the top of the list of priorities. The day I returned from a business mastermind trip in Europe, I learned my mother had fallen ill with abdominal issues. As I was back in town, I was able to support my mother in-person, take her to the hospital and spend much of last week with her.

As I write this, I am on Day 8 of being there to provide encouragement to my mother as the doctors try to figure out how best to help her. With my attention on her, it is a relief to know that my business – which is fortunately extremely busy right now – is carrying on without my having to monitor every aspect.

How can your business keep going during a family emergency? It actually came together for me while I was watching the way the hospital operates and being thankful that my business operates much more efficiently and effectively, especially when it comes to client service and satisfaction. (You can watch my video about the connection I drew between business and the hospital operations on LinkedIn or Facebook.)

The key elements your business needs to keep running:

  • Build and empower a great team and then trust them.
  • Systematize your processes.
  • Communicate regularly and transparently with clients, industry partners and other key people.
    Implement and effectively use mobile technology.

You need to have many of these things in place before a family or other emergency comes up. How does your company stack up? Are you ready in case of emergency? If not, take heart and know that you can start to take the necessary steps to improve from where you are starting today.

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Authentic Negotiating

How to Negotiate Salary with a Potential or Existing Employer

Joining a new company can be a challenging time. Do you accept the first compensation offer or counter to see if there is room for improvement? Last week I wrote about employers having some leverage, but not all, in a salary negotiation.

Do you know how to use your leverage in a salary negotiation? Ideally, you have prepared for the negotiation with a list of quantifiable value that you bring to the position. A list of past accomplishments, along with any additional experience you bring to the team, will help you own your value and contribution.

When preparing to negotiate your worth, plan to set aside some time for quiet reflection. You need to do the inner work necessary to clarify your vision of what you want. For example, why you want a raise? Having clarity is essential to identify what a successful outcome looks like ahead of time. Why do you want a higher salary? Don’t stop your inquiry at “I want more money.” Why do you want more money? For example, “I have kids and I want to be able to pay for them to go to college.” Why do you want to pay for their tuition? “I never had the opportunity to go to college and I want to be able to provide that for them.”

There it is. That’s your purpose, that’s what you’re negotiating for: to send your kids to college and to provide them an opportunity that you never had. You can see how much different that answer is than “I want to make more money,” and now you’ve positioned yourself in a way that your supervisor can connect to; depending upon your supervisor, now the negotiation may not be adversarial but collaborative instead. It will also open up other options that will allow you to achieve your underlying purpose that you may not have thought of had you focused only on making more money. For instance, in the example above, maybe your employer has a college scholarship fund that is outside your department’s budget. Instead of getting a larger raise, you get access to scholarship money or, maybe, your boss has influence over scholarship or grant funds outside the company.

Now that you have a salary number, make sure you have done the same work as to other elements of your compensation package. Maybe you can negotiate more PTO in exchange for less of a raise. Could you negotiate a four-day work week to give you more time to work on a side project, and supplement your income that way? You need to know what other options could be on the table, and which of them you are willing to accept.

Develop your negotiating skills even further by following the steps I detail in my book Authentic Negotiating: Clarity, Detachment & Equilibrium – The Three Key to True Negotiating Success & How to Achieve Them and go to to take a 5-minute Authentic Negotiating Success Quiz to see where you stand and get immediate feedback.

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

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Authentic Conversations About Difference

How to Negotiate with a Potential Employee

Unemployment rates are still at 4.1% from the latest Department of Labor findings and employees expect competitive salary and benefits. As a decision maker in the hiring process, you have leverage but, in a tight job market, you do not have all of it.

Before you have selected a candidate for the open position, you will want to go through the deep work necessary to find the clarity on who you want for this position. As a master negotiator, I teach my clients to use my CDE method—Clarity, Detachment, and Equilibrium.

The inner work that brings clarity is not something you can do on a whim. You will want to allow enough time and energy to really dive into the motivations of the company and the team to create the most authentic offer.

Detachment comes when you remove your emotion and biases from the outcome. It is especially helpful to consider the negotiation not from a one-sided – or even a win-win – perspective but rather from a place of meeting each party’s needs. Once we bring in the concept of winning, it is easy for the ego to get engaged and for us to lose the clarity and detachment we need.. If you are able to maintain clarity and detachment, it leaves the negotiation open to mutually beneficial options for the employer and the employee.

Creativity in the offer and listening to how the potential employee responds to the offer will guide you in the next steps. For example, if the salary offered is base plus commission, it is possible that the base could be higher with a lower percentage going forward for the commission. Also consider flexibility in schedule if it serves the company as well as the employee.

With the next steps also comes the need for equilibrium. As the decision maker for the company, you will want to know the parameters available. Equilibrium, or balance, will inform your actions and help you make the best decision for your team and prevent you from getting thrown off or triggered during a negotiation. Maybe something a candidate says triggers you in some way. That could be a good indicator that you shouldn’t hire that employee but it also could be that you got triggered due to some past experience or personal issue that should have nothing to do with evaluation the candidates qualifications.

So, do whatever it is that gets you centered and clear – for some it is meditation or prayer, for others its exercise or calling a mentor or friend or practicing in the mirror or, maybe, doing something unrelated that you enjoy and will put you in a good state of mind. You can also use anchoring right before you go into the room – think about a time when you felt confident, strong, on your game – envision that experience in full color and with all your senses. Then take a deep breath and bring that energy with you into the room.

If you found this helpful and want to hear more, join me May 16th in New York City for my Authentic Negotiating Workshop at SHRM’s Speaker Select Series. The series is open to HR professionals and those in Talent Acquisition, Employee Engagement, Internal Communications, Talent Management and/or Learning and Development. Online registration is available until May 15th.

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Authentic Conversations About Difference

The Pygmalion Effect: Part Two

In Part One, I shared the story of Nancy, a former client who was letting her expectations impede what was otherwise shaping up to be a fair and beneficial acquisition deal for both sides.

Nancy was holding expectations of the deal and of her counterparts that were preventing her from making progress on the deal. She was at the table for a reason—at one point, this buyer was a good fit to acquire her company. But when the time came, skepticism got the better of her. In fact, the more she pushed back, the more she was threatening to compromise her objectives.

I had to get real with Nancy. I told her, “We did a good job getting clear on your objectives, and you’ve been composed, but if you’re thinking that these terms aren’t being offered in good faith, that’s on you, not them.”

I explained to her the Pygmalion Effect. It’s a proven phenomenon that states when we hold higher expectations; we actually manifest increased performance and more positive results. Conversely, and this is what Nancy was exposing herself to, the Golem Effect posits that when we hold low expectations, performance sees a downtick and we see more negative outcomes. Both are self-fulfilling prophecies.

What could Nancy have known about the Pygmalion Effect that could have helped her?

The energy we hold within ourselves matters. I thought we were on solid ground. Nancy had warmed to my authentic negotiating approach with relative ease, but only she knew her truth. The positive work we’d done to prepare for negotiations was being undermined by the negative energy Nancy was carrying, and inevitably putting out into the world. If she’d understood that her inner being has power to impact the outside world, she could have identified her low expectations and negative feelings as a problem early on, then she and I could have addressed them and come to the table with the high expectations that we should have been holding the whole time.

Those low expectations probably already rubbed off on her team. The Pygmalion Effect isn’t limited to our personal pursuits and outcomes. Studies have shown that our expectations of others effect how they perform and the attitudes they carry. In our specific example, the acquiring company was growing tense and weary of Nancy’s mistrust. Her low expectations of them were in turn affecting their mood and their willingness to negotiate. What Nancy might not have known is exactly how long she’d be carrying this negativity. If it was well in advance of the deal, it’s likely her team noticed and started to grow concerned, lowering morale. It’s a huge precept of leadership – the perceptions and expectations leaders hold of their followers are going to greatly influence how those followers think, behave, and perform. By holding low expectations of this acquisition, Nancy was putting a previously positive and productive team at risk.

She had no reason to carry low expectations. Nancy was onboard with clarity, detachment, and equilibrium. Nancy knew what she wanted and never got triggered. She didn’t understand that by doing the inner work that we did in preparation for this deal, high expectations were implicit. Low expectations are a nonstarter because in choosing to embrace authentic negotiating, Nancy was putting herself in complete control of the outcome – whether it was this deal or another, making the exact right one for her business was always going to be in her control.

Eventually, Nancy and I got on the same page and she understood that with our approach, there was nothing to worry about. But, her story shows how not embracing the Pygmalion Effect can creep in and shake even the sturdiest foundations. What’s more, it points to the fact that to be an authentic negotiator and make CDE work for you, you have to be all in. You have to believe and embrace it as a way of being. In fact, it wasn’t until after the first deal didn’t go through and she saw herself repeating the pattern with a second potential buyer that Nancy was able to see how she was sabotaging her objectives. Only then did Nancy go all in and we were able to close the perfect acquisition deal for her and her team.

The Pygmalion Effect is a concept that’s shaped much of my life and thinking. For a deeper dive into some of my other influences, check out the thinkers who’ve impacted me:

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Authentic Negotiating

The Pygmalion Effect: Part One

In any negotiation, we bring with us a certain set of expectations to the table. We expect each material point to be contentious. Traditional tactics have us prepared with all the classic manipulation tricks because we expect the same from our counterparts. We get caught in this inauthentic loop that often leaves both sides wondering what they really got out of the deal.

My authentic negotiating approach came about as a response to that absurd cycle. I knew deep down that deals could be more and compromise wasn’t a foregone conclusion. The foundational principles of clarity, detachment, and equilibrium make up our inner North Star when we’re at the table. With them, we stay focused on our objectives, avoid getting triggered by checking our egos, and remain in complete control throughout the negotiating process.

Like with most anything in life, just going through the motions of becoming an authentic negotiator won’t get it done. It’s not a method as much as it’s a new state of being. With that comes not just a change in our behaviors at the table, but the mindset that we carry with us.

I was working on a mid-market acquisition deal a few years back, and my client—we’ll call her Nancy—was being acquired by a larger marketing firm. It was a tough decision for her, but the deal had too much potential and the timing was right.

Once Nancy and I had agreed on that, I took her through the CDE steps, and she seemed to get it. From the start, she could clearly define her main objective—she wanted this acquisition to be more of a partnership and for the overall company she’d built to not change very much. With this bigger company’s resources, Nancy and her people could do the work they wanted. With the talent and expertise of Nancy and her team, the larger company could attract a market sector they’d struggled to attract in the past. It added up to a mutually beneficial deal, but it wasn’t long before Nancy revealed her deep skepticism.

While she kept relatively cool at the table, in our asides and breaks, Nancy voiced concerns that the company was negotiating in bad faith, that they just wanted her client list, that they had no intentions of holding up their end of the deal. At the same time, she didn’t want to walk away. After agreeing with our counterparts to break for the day and regroup tomorrow, Nancy and I talked about what was really holding her back.

Her expectations were way off. While I didn’t doubt the work she had done to get clear on her objectives, she was holding low expectations of the other party. Being crystal clear on what you want while being detached from the outcomes means that you should be coming to the table with high expectations of yourself, your outcome, and even your counterparts. When you know what you want and that you aren’t going to make a deal that doesn’t satisfy your objectives, there’s no reason to carry low expectations.

Although it is possible there was a basis for Nancy concerns, two things were true. First, I didn’t see the basis for these concerns – certainly not at the level held by Nancy. Second, it was clear to me that this filter of fear and low expectations existed for her from the start of the negotiation even before the other party said much. So, Nancy had convinced herself to expect the worst of her counterparts, to expect the worst of the deal she was going to get—and the ultimate endgame of that deal. It colored every aspect of the proposals that were coming from the other side. To her, the offer just kept getting worse and worse, even though my general feeling was that things were moving along as expected.

Nancy did not apply the Pygmalion Effect. In next week’s piece, I’ll unpack the Pygmalion Effect and its impact on how we negotiate. It’s an important underlying concept to my Authentic Negotiating approach, and once we understand its power, we can use it to improve ourselves and our results at the table. In the meantime, see how far along you are on the road to becoming an authentic negotiator. My quiz will give you the benchmarks you need to start improving: Authentic Negotiating Success Quiz

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Authentic Conversations About Difference Authentic Leadership

You’re Approaching Your Business Relationships Wrong

What’s holding you back from making the most of your network?

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

-Maya Angelou

You probably read that quote and thought, Surely, a poet like Maya Angelou wasn’t talking about business relationships. You’d be right. She almost certainly wasn’t. Yet, I think within that thinking is the fundamental issue at the core of how we approach our business relationships. For whatever reason, we give ourselves permission to treat these relationships differently. We try to be different people to our business contacts than in our day-to-day lives; we compartmentalize them, and we have maladjusted expectations of ourselves and our counterparts in these relationships. All that adds up to an inauthentic relationship. Considering our business relationships have the power to shape our career and our long-term success and, thus, shape our lives, this is an issue that needs some focused attention.

I’ve written about how we can build better business relationships before. The subject is one of great importance to me. But sometimes we need to identify what we’re doing wrong before we can correctly implement the best practices I advise. So, what are you getting wrong?

You Botch the First Impression.

Our society puts a ton of weight into the first impression. For good reason, I think. In a world of gray areas, first impressions are refreshingly binary. If you’re not making a good first impression, you’ve made a bad one. Like Angelou said, when someone shows you who they are, we believe them the first time. But, that begs the questions, did you take care to show that person who you really are? In these pressure-packed first moments we go crazy trying to impress the person in front of us. Insincere charm, flashy spending, or even an old foe – mirroring, will all more than likely come off as fake and contrived to the person you’re trying to impress. And just like that, you’ve botched the first impression. The far better option is to be your authentic self. Show that person who you really are. Chances are good they’ll be impressed by your confidence and candor. Embracing authenticity is how we really make a good first impression.

You’re Compartmentalizing.

This is a symptom of “work-life balance” thinking. The idea is that our business should rightly remain separate from our personal lives if we’re to find fulfillment in both. To me, that’s a scarcity mindset that suggests one siphons positivity from the other and vice-versa. Now, imagine approaching your business relationships with this in mind. How could you even begin to give this relationship everything it needs to succeed? With this mindset, you can’t. That’s why I’m an advocate for work-life integration. I became an entrepreneur so that my work could fit into the life I wanted to lead. The same goes for the relationships we want to have. If we feel a push and pull between our personal relationships and our business relationships it means we’re keeping both at arm’s length. With an integrated approach, our business relationships become normal parts of our lives, like anything else. We can then enter into them fully and authentically.

You’re Engaging in Transactional Thinking.

This is our biggest downfall when it comes to how we build business relationships. Increasingly, we seem to have forgotten the simple virtue of being decent for the sake of being decent. There’s a line of thinking that questions the value of any relationship that doesn’t pay material dividends immediately or in the very near future. That’s a toxic mindset. Any authentic relationship must be built on complete trust. If you’re only giving this contact your time and attention because you want something from them, you’re creating a zero-sum context—if I don’t get what I want out of this relationship, this person has won, and I have lost. That’s fear, that’s ego, and that’s transactional thinking in the most cynical way possible. Instead, I always advise giving first, and then handing the relationship over to trust. Trust that you’re acting not out of expectation or selfishness, but because it’s good to give and to be of value to this person. Trust that the energy your actions put into the universe will come back to you and, eventually, the relationship will give you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

We can get granular about the things we get wrong—the way we choose to speak, appearing aloof and disinterested, more concerned with our phones than the person in front of us, being anxious and neurotic—but, they are all, in some way or another, the result of one of the three business relationship pitfalls discussed above. If you want to learn more about how you can avoid these blunders and build better, authentic business relationships, check out my video: Building Authentic Business Relationships.

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!