All at sea

Published: Aug 22 , 2013
Author: John McMillan

It is said that the two happiest times in a sailor's life are the day they buy a boat and the day they sell their boat. I have a third occasion which beats even these. 

It is also said there are two types of sailors: those who like painting and those who like sailing.  I fall into the latter category; maintenance is boring; sailing is fun.

Having owned my 21 foot daysailer from new for 12 years I reluctantly put in on the market. I say reluctantly because I loved my little boat but I had moved house and was getting less use of it.

After doing some research I established what was a "fair market price" and I put up a For Sale advert in the local harbor where the boat sat on a pontoon mooring.  Within 24 hours the phone rang and a man, let's call him Larry, said he was interested and proceeded to try to haggle the price down.

Now the difference between Larry and me was not that I am a professional negotiator and he is not; it was because there was asymmetric information.  I knew more than he did.

First I pointed out to him the comparable prices of identical boats just 150 miles away in the English Lake District but more importantly I told him that although I was selling the boat, the pontoon mooring was not mine to sell.  The harbor is owned by a local Trust, and only the 65 Trustees have berthing rights.  I am a trustee.  Furthermore there is an extensive waiting list for moorings as there are no other all-tides harbors with pontoon within 30 miles.

So I made him a proposal:  He could buy a partnership in the boat from me at the asking price less £1; he would pay all the running costs and do all the maintenance; and allow me to sail the boat any time I wanted.  In return I would continue my membership of the Harbor Trust and so keep my mooring rights. An agreement was made on those terms.

He is happy because he has a good boat at a fair price - and the pontoon mooring.  I am happy because I get to sail whenever I want without having to do the "painting".

The negotiating lessons are: do your homework; make realistic proposals; and value your concessions in the other party's terms.

John McMillan


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John McMillan
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It's All in the Timing

Tommy Cooper was one of the funniest comedians ever. How do I know? Well partly because he has 13 of the best jokes in the top 50 gags of all time. A personal favourite being, “heard the one about two aerials meeting on a roof, falling in love, and getting married? The ceremony was rubbish but the reception was brilliant”. Telling a good joke is not just about the content. It is also in the timing of the delivery. The same could also be said about negotiation. Picking your time to enter into a negotiation can have a significant impact on its progression and your outcome.

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