REAL-WORLD INSIGHTS

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Published: Mar 09 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

In the world of internet start-ups and disruptive technology the valuations placed on popular new entrants into a market continue to be completely out of whack with their profitability, as they were in the dot.com boom and bust 20 years ago. Companies with a market valuation of $1 billion or more, known as tech unicorns, include Snap Inc. the owners of Snapchat, Airbnb, and Uber. Snapchat is currently valued at between $25-35 billion. But it has never made a profit and its net worth, assets less liabilities, is only $1.5 billion. Airbnb has a market value of around $30 billion, about $7 billion more than physical competitor Hilton, but turned in its first profit only in the second half of 2016. And Uber, currently valued at between $60 -70 billion, made a $3 billion loss last year according to Bloomberg

Published: Mar 02 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

Earlier this week with friends in Venice for the end of Carnevale. Thousands of people milling around St Mark’s Square watching the processions. Hundreds of human mannequins dressed up in renaissance costumes, wearing outrageous face masks, and posing for the photographers and the tourists. The hotels and restaurants bursting, the gondoliers fully employed, even at €80 for 30 minutes. There is a real buzz in the city, and the unseasonal warm weather and blue sky was the cherry on the cake. We couldn't stop smiling. Carnevale is an experience which should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Published: Feb 16 , 2017
Author: Robin Copland

I have been an interested (though fortunately not involved) bystander watching the protracted negotiations between Southern Rail, the train operating company (TOC) that runs the services for a large part of “commuter-land” in the south of England and the trade unions representing the train drivers and guards. This is simplistic, but if you live to the south of London and commute into the city to work, then the chances are that you use a Southern Rail train to do so. No Southern Rail trains? Chaos. Simple as that

Published: Feb 06 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

It was in 1996 that Deep Blue, an IBM chess computer first beat the best human chess player, Garry Kasparov, becoming the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demanded a rematch. IBM refused and retired Deep Blue

Published: Feb 02 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

"That is why I have said before — and will continue to say — that every stray word and every hyped-up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain." Theresa May has long repeated the mantra that she is not going to reveal the details of Britain’s Brexit negotiating tactics, because that would be poor negotiating practice. Yet in her speech on Tuesday she did just that. Here are some verbatim extracts – what deductions could you make from the highlighted words if you were a European bureaucrat charged with analysing Britain’s negotiating position

Published: Feb 02 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

It has been an interesting few weeks for Theresa May. A bit of a Chinese curse that, to always live in interesting times. Firstly, she has had to deal with the new US president, where I find it hard to believe that Trump holds any attraction to her, no matter how opposite he is. Then there was the potential ban on Sir Mo Farah travelling to the US, averted by of all people, ex rival Boris Johnson.

Published: Jan 18 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

That is why I have said before — and will continue to say — that every stray word and every hyped-up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain." Theresa May has long repeated the mantra that she is not going to reveal the details of Britain’s Brexit negotiating tactics, because that would be poor negotiating practice. Yet in her speech on Tuesday she did just that. Here are some verbatim extracts – what deductions could you make from the highlighted words if you were a European bureaucrat charged with analysing Britain’s negotiating position

Published: Jan 12 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

I was thinking, as one is tended to do, over the January period, of any goals I could do with having as we waltz into 2017. Eat well, exercise regularly, spend more time on my relationships are my clear life goals. Frankly ones that we all probably share. But from a negotiation perspective, which after all is what I teach and consult in for a living, what three things would help people less focused on this area than I, make a distinct and significant improvement in their negotiation outcomes

Published: Jan 05 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

Like the conference speaker who has the misfortune to be given the slot immediately after a brilliant raconteur, 2017 is unlikely to be a ‘wow’ year, following on as it does from a humdinger 2016. Unlikely, but not impossible, and it certainly got off to a great start with the unexpected resignation of the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers, an event which would probably have been called PRexit if it wasn’t so easy to mishear. Not only did he surprise everyone with his impeccable timing - the first Brexit bombshell of the year – but in his swan song note to colleagues he laid into the Government for its appalling state of Brexit preparation

Published: Dec 22 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Well it’s nearly here. The time of year when even the hardest nosed of commercial creatures switch off for the season. At Scotwork we are no different. We are putting away our planning tools, our diagnostic apps, our value creation engines and negotiation logs.

Published: Dec 15 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

You know, it’s not all sweetness and light in Lapland. People think (and to be fair, why shouldn’t they?), that all the work takes place on 24th December. Santa gets on his sledge and travels the world distributing largesse hither and thither. No one ever asks though what happens for the rest of the year. What – do they think that this mammoth distribution happens by magic? Well, I’ll admit that there is a bit of the magical and mystical about the whole operation; the reindeer-drawn sledge, for example, is a bit of a mystery, but for the rest – well, we’re talking slickness and speed and management of change and… But I’m ahead of myself

Published: Dec 08 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

People think of negotiating as “that thing you do when you’re buying a car” (you’re probably haggling), or “that time you took a particularly sinuous series of bends at speed without driving over the cliff edge” (you were probably driving). At Scotwork, we are of the view that negotiating is that thing you do when something happens to make the status quo no longer tenable; in other words, external factors disrupt an ongoing relationship to the extent that contracts and relationships need to be re-aligned

Published: Dec 01 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

In our contemporary world of hyper-uncertainty, where we are being constantly surprised (and often upset) by unexpected outcomes, data would appear to be our friend. The more information we collect and interpret, the better we can analyze the past and the more certain we can be of the future. Data reduces uncertainty.

Published: Nov 28 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Two questions: When negotiating, do you want the other side to act reasonably? And, Is it a good strategy to be reasonable when negotiating? Most people will say yes to the first question. It would be crazy not to. The second however creates a bit more of a dilemma. We are sometimes tempted to go high or low, pad and exaggerate what we really anticipate being able to achieve. Because that is what we should do right?

Published: Nov 17 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

I am a big fan of Bob Dylan. Well his music anyway. Other people, not quite so much. A member of the Swedish Academy that recently offered Mr Dylan the Noble Prize has accused Bob of being both rude and arrogant. Apparently Bob had refused to return phone calls or even acknowledge the offer and spurned the academy rather as one would spurn a rabid dog! As the Daily Mail reported, to accuse Bob Dylan of being rude is like attacking Humpty Dumpty for being an egg. He is legendary for his ambivalence to fans. He turns his back on them and grunts between songs in his live shows on stage. In person he is no better.

Published: Nov 10 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

I predict a spike in the birth-rate at the beginning of August 2017 because thousands of people, in the US and around the world, were making babies last night. There is much anecdotal evidence that after a trauma people take solace with each other. How many couples will have gone to bed last night whispering to each other ‘WTF (Will Trump Flourish?)’ before rolling over and occupying themselves with other things?

Published: Nov 03 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

Complicated negotiations often involve different meetings, different personnel, different issues and, in the case of the upcoming Brexit negotiations, different countries! The key word in this kind of negotiation is alignment and that involves a number of different factors and considerations. We can learn from the insect world; think bees! Perhaps first and foremost, there needs to be a central “go-to” point where all the information and meeting notes are collated and stored. It is vital to have a central hive of information that teams preparing for a new round of negotiation can reference. The old phrase, “singing off the same hymn sheet” has a certain resonance in this regard. The workers need a point of reference.

Published: Oct 24 , 2016
Author: Brian Buck

Being a bourbon aficionado, my heart skipped a beat when I heard that Jim Beam workers had voted to strike. (I was a bit relieved to find out that my beloved Maker’s Mark would be unaffected!) Employees and management had been negotiating for nearly 7-months on a new contract. Two previous proposals had been turned down by the employees before they voted to strike.

Published: Oct 20 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

This isn’t going to be popular; to write it – even to think it - sticks in my throat as it offends against my innate sense of fair play and good will to all people, but there really are times when I want to take our elected representatives to one side and slap them about the face. They pontificate and they grandstand; they puff themselves up into rice krispies of righteous indignation; they adopt their “holier than thou” positions; they occasionally demonstrate a frightening lack of common sense and commercial nous and, at the same time, they would have us weaken our position in future negotiations.

Published: Oct 13 , 2016
Author: Rafael Castellanos and Silvio Escudero

A couple of weeks ago we were surprised by the results of the “referendum” in Colombia. Colombians faced this question: “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and build a long-lasting and stable peace?”. This question referred to the agreement reached by the Colombian Government and FARC (oldest guerrilla group in the country). It was an agreement to put an end to a 52-years conflict that brought to the country thousands of casualties and displaced people, not to mention the impact of this conflict in the social and economic development of the country for decades

Published: Oct 06 , 2016
Author: Yannis Dimarakis

By November 9th, we will probably know the name of the next president of the USA. As the polls are not decisive, the statistical probability of Trump winning, is a real one. The negotiating profile of incumbent American presidents is instrumental to the behavior of “the country with the greatest influence on the planet”, on a range of issues, ranging from global challenges like climate change, to regional trouble spots like Syria, North Korea etc.

Published: Sep 29 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

News of Brangelina’s intention to divorce arriving on the same day as the critical acclaim given to the new Channel 4 drama National Treasure about celebrity sexual malpractice gave rise to a dinner table conversation about our capability to correctly read peoples’ underlying personality. We all recognize that in the febrile atmosphere inhabited by A, B, C, and Z listers the norms of society tend to be warped; they and we believe that they are more prone to accusations of bribery, corruption, to divorce and adultery. But in terms of the individual celebrity how good is our instinctive sniff-test. When we first hear bombshell news about a famous person is our reaction ‘Yes, not surprised, I knew that was a likely scenario’, or ‘No, I would never have thought them capable of that’.

Published: Sep 29 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Tomorrow I have an appointment at the dentist. I can state with pretty much certainty and I admit comfort, that he knows something about teeth. Partly because the last time I went to see him with a damaged filling I left with it fixed, which frankly it would be difficult for someone without any knowledge of teeth to have resolved. Unless of course he had been very lucky that day and managed to wing it.

Published: Sep 19 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

"No" has emerged as an early contender for the least popular word in the English language, as Oxford Dictionaries ran a global search to find the least favorite English word. Starting what it hoped will be the largest global survey into people’s language gripes, the dictionary publisher was inviting English speakers all over the world to answer a range of language questions under the One Word Initiative starting with the quest to find the least popular English word.

Published: Sep 01 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

August 31st: The End of the Silly Season. The UK, against all the odds, voted to leave the EU. In the USA Donald Trump survived despite chronic foot-in-mouth disease. In Rio the Russian Olympic team appeared phoenix-like to take part despite a ban as punishment for institutionalised drug taking. In France a truck became a terror weapon and modest Muslim women were hassled on beaches as a result. In Germany 28,000 workers were laid off by VW because a dispute with a Bosnian seat cover supplier escalated and the supplier stopped delivering. And celebrity magazines around the world announced that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant.

Published: Aug 25 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Team GB flew in to Heathrow on Tuesday morning this week, clanking with their scores of medals, on flight number BA2016, a British Airways 747 repainted with a golden nose and renamed “victoRIOus”. The best Olympic results for these Glorious Isles in over a century.

Published: Aug 18 , 2016
Author: Sam Macbeth

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal headlines "Apple’s Hard-Charging Tactics Hurt TV Expansion - In search of its new big thing, possibly TV, Apple has alienated cable providers and networks with an assertive negotiating style; ‘time is on my side’" they are saying.

Published: Aug 04 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

There is a big debate going on at the moment in the UK – and especially in Scotland about the renewal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent. Perhaps some background might explain where we are as things stand right now.

Published: Jul 28 , 2016
Author: John McMillan

Over the last 40 years I have observed more than 5,000 hours of negotiation in over 30 countries and that has taught me the about the fatal errors that cause negotiations to fail. For the purpose of this blog I shall limit myself to the top five and see how many of these might be present in the UK’s attempt to extricate itself from its 43-year relationship with the European Union.

Published: Jul 21 , 2016
Author: Richard Savage

I was rather intrigued by a restaurant in North London, which I heard about recently. Mostly because some friends of mine, who were recommending it, were particularly excited about the fact that it was ‘all you can eat’. Now I don’t know about you, but ‘all you can eat’ in my book reminds me of brightly lit windows promising more cholesterol and MSG than one thought possible or healthy. And indeed the preserve of worn out Leicester Square tourists and hungry students

Published: Jul 14 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

You really couldn’t make this up. Prior to the recent Brexit referendum, there was a negotiation between David Cameron, the UK prime minister and Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Luxembourg prime minister and current commissioner of the European Union.

Published: Jun 30 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

So what are you doing about Brexit’ demanded my 90-year-old Mum. ‘Why should I be doing anything about it?’ I asked. ‘Because every other sentence on the news channels since Friday morning has contained the word Negotiation’ she said. Point taken.

Published: Jun 23 , 2016
Author: David Bannister

I am writing this blog a mere two days after the UK was shocked at the news that a young female member of Parliament was murdered in a street in her constituency where she was born and brought up. Jo Cox was, everyone agrees, a principled and much loved and respected MP who represented a culturally diverse constituency where people of all religions and none are united in the grief and respect they have shown for her.

Published: Jun 16 , 2016
Author: Sebastian Bacewicz

It’s common knowledge that being rude to people may not be the best way of achieving what you want. In fact, the effect of being rude will mostly achieve the very opposite: if you're rude to somebody, they're more than likely going to be rude right back to you, and certainly less likely to give you what you want. A resulting vicious circle of rudeness ensues, and a bad deal - or no deal at all – achieved in the end.

Published: Jun 02 , 2016
Author: Sam Macbeth

Firstly apologies to the the 1980’s pop group Madness for the title of this blog. The Sun newspaper reported last week that “David Cameron finally manages to get a good deal – after negotiating a second-hand Nissan Micra for Samantha”. Apparently he drove this off the forecourt from the car dealer in his local constituency in Witney, Oxfordshire – very different from the public office £200K Jaguar which he rides in for work.

Published: May 26 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

I do not suppose that there is a perfect way of sacking someone. It is never nice and never easy – either for the manager doing the deed or indeed the victim.

Published: May 19 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Walk out the door? Maybe not quite as easy as you may think. The challenge for anyone in a long term relationship, business or pleasure, and particularly one experiencing difficulty is: do I invest in trying to fix it or cut my losses?

Published: May 12 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

The fathers of Scottish devolution came up with a system so complicated as to confuse even the most passionate observer and student of the political scene north of the border. There were three guiding principles:

Published: May 05 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

Just about a year ago, as voting in the UK General Election came to an end, an exit poll predicted that the Conservative Party would win a 10 seat majority. This was so out of whack with the estimates made by all the opinion poll experts that Paddy Ashdown, a well-known and well respected Liberal Democrat politician promised on TV that if the exit poll prediction was right he would literally eat his hat. The prediction turned out to be correct.

Published: Apr 28 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

I am sitting by the hospital bedside of an elderly relative who fell last week and broke her hip. It is Tuesday, the first day of this week’s junior doctor’s strike. The ward is functioning normally as far as I can see; there is a normal complement of doctors on duty, but unusually there are also groups of more senior consultants who appear to be hunting in packs of 3 or 4, perhaps for safety. There was no picket line when I came into the hospital and it was as difficult to find a car parking space today as it has been all week which suggests that most outpatient appointments are proceeding as usual.

Published: Apr 21 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

When I tell people what I do for a living, lots of people are intrigued, often they don’t really get what it is. I like to tell them that negotiation is the art of getting more of what you want, that seems to intrigue them more. Hopefully that turns into a business opportunity, tart that I am.

Published: Apr 14 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

Confidence is one of the important attributes of a good negotiator. Many HR recruiters believe that this is an attribute they need to look for in those who will be conducting negotiations for the organisation (sales, marketing, procurement, Board level), so that testing for confidence as a personality trait is therefore very important

Published: Mar 31 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

The great thing about negotiating is that it enables people – often from diverse backgrounds and polarised positions – to come together and strike deals to the long-term benefit of both parties. You do not have to agree to do business or sign treaties. The whole process of trading enables participants to park their differences for the greater good.

Published: Mar 03 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

When are you at your most creative? It is a question I often ask in the classroom when I am running negotiation skills development classes. Two retorts I often hear are: “Why?” (people are reluctant to answer unless they know why I want to know, cynical bunch) or “When I am under extreme pressure.”

Published: Feb 25 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

We have a problem with my mother. She is a gregarious 90 year old, has successfully lived on her own since my Dad died 10 years ago, she is full of life and bright as a button, lots of friends, goes out to play cards five times a week. Until three weeks ago.

Published: Feb 18 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

It’s not that David Cameron does not have his troubles to seek as he shuttles around Europe trying to secure support for a modified agreement with the UK’s fellow European Union member states, but I bet you he wishes he had not been quite so cavalier as to promise an “in-out referendum” in the period leading up to the 2015 UK general election.

Published: Feb 05 , 2016
Author: David Bannister

A few years ago I read an interesting article based on the work of a renowned US business school which gave the results of studies into acquisitions and mergers in international business over a period of years. The conclusion, briefly summarised, was that what these deals produced in practice was a long way short of what had been predicted for them at the outset – fewer than a third of deals met the expectations which had been heralded for them when they were being contemplated and shareholders were being convinced to endorse them.

Published: Jan 27 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

The ability to negotiate through conflict is obviously critical within any organisation, regardless of which side of the fence they happen to sit, and in reality most of us sit on both sides of the fence in the different situations we find ourselves in. Sometimes we are buying, other times we are selling. Often we are managing others and maybe we are being managed.

Published: Jan 14 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

One of the defining qualities of a good negotiator is the ability to manufacture unusual tradeable variables apparently out of thin air. An example of this is how time is used as a variable. Most people would agree that a day comprises 24 hours. But management consultants know that a day in terms of charging fees is more likely to be 7 hours, so clients who need more than 7 hours find themselves paying for more than a day.

Published: Jan 07 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

It occurred to me, that the most prominent current industrial dispute in England, between the Government and the Junior Doctors, might be an excellent vehicle to analyse how Millennials (defined typically as born after 1983) negotiate, and whether Millennial traits have impacted on the negotiations.

Published: Dec 17 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Is there a difference between telling lies or just being misleading? I guess lying, rather like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder. "I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again - I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

Published: Dec 10 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Recently the Sunday Times Travel section reported an unfortunate accident. A Mr Graham Davies booked a multi-flight trip from the UK to The Philippines. He used a travel agency called CheapOair; I think that was his first mistake. I mean, would you? It’s like enthusiastically calling Rubbish Plumbers Ltd to fix a leak, or Lackadaisical Accountants LLP to look after your tax affairs?

Published: Dec 03 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

Here in the UK in the Autumn and the first part of Winter a televisual phenomenon hits our screens on a Saturday night. It’s called ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ or just ‘Strictly’ to the real addicts. A number of so-called celebrities are partnered with professional dancers and week by week they compete against each other in a knockout competition where viewers’ votes decide which contestant will be eliminated each week. Almost ten million eager followers tune in to this programme in the months it is on our televisions.

Published: Nov 12 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

I wrote in this blog about three weeks ago about the commitment given by the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, to write to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, setting out the demands which the UK would make in its negotiations with the EU prior to a referendum of the British people some time before the end of 2017 which will decide if the UK remains a member of the EU.

Published: Nov 05 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Am I reading this right? We're all getting fat because we eat too much and don't exercise enough. Right? Well, not if you look at the debate about fat versus sugar now playing out.

Published: Oct 29 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

It is fashionable for radicals to kick against the political establishment. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, Marine Le Pen in France, Alexis Tsipras in Greece and Ben Carson in the US are symptomatic of a public disillusionment with the power-broking traditional ruling classes.

Published: Oct 22 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

Daniel Hannan is a British Member of the European Parliament (MEP), an institution for which he seems to have little warmth (as do quite a number of other British MEPs). The UK has announced its intention to renegotiate the terms of its membership of the European Union (EU) and to put the issue to a referendum in the next couple of years. The tactics of all of this are of more than passing interest to a negotiator. So far, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, has made only relatively vague references to what issues will be on the agenda when he negotiates with his fellow leaders, some of whom have wasted no time to tell Cameron what they think will not be on the agenda. Those of us interested in the negotiating tactics might conclude (as I do) that not saying what you want is not a great starting point on the journey to getting what you want.

Published: Oct 16 , 2015
Author: Tom Feinson

Tesco’s travails over the last few months are many and varied. Recently they topped a grocers code adjudicator list for supplier complaints and in a recent survey only Iceland received a lower score from its suppliers, it must be cold there.

Published: Oct 01 , 2015
Author: John McMillian

A story in the British press reads that oilfield services provider Halliburton has made an offer to swallow rival Baker Hughes for $35 billion; Schlumberger has weighed in on equipment maker Cameron International in a $14.8 billion deal. Companies that specialize in one part of the services market, for example offshore drilling, are in a difficult situation and are finding themselves squeezed by their customers to such an extent that, in order to survive, they are having to accept takeover deals from bigger rivals or risk going out of business; takeover deals that would not have been countenanced 18 months ago are suddenly now acceptable – even welcome!

Published: Sep 25 , 2015
Author: Romana Henry

I go running regularly with a good friend and neighbor who happens to be a criminal defense lawyer. She is married to another lawyer who works in property and estate settlement etc. On our runs, we exchange tips and advice. She tells me how expensive it would be to divorce my husband, why I shouldn’t burn a red light and why helping my 17 year old daughter to obtain fake I.D. to get into pubs really isn’t a good idea. Why I really must make a will soon, when to put my house on the market and what home improvements not to bother with...

Published: Sep 17 , 2015
Author: Simon Letchford

In 1978, US President Jimmy Carter brokered the first peace agreement between Egypt and a free Jewish nation in over 2,000 years. If email had been widely available, do you think he could have used it to save everyone 13 days at Camp David? Many clients ask me whether they should negotiate by email, expecting me to say no. My answer is always the same – “Absolutely. Sometimes.” Here are some trade-offs to consider before you press SEND.

Published: Sep 10 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Habits are one of the most useful things we can slip into. If we didn’t habitually do much of our daily lives we would simply be unable to deal with the sensory overload that modern life has become. Just imagine what a drag it would be if we had to consciously think about breathing, blinking, walking, how to make a cup of tea? Nothing would get done.

Published: Sep 03 , 2015
Author: Stephen White and Alan Smith

Ever run out of gas? Well it seems that more and more of us have. Last year over 800,000 motorists reportedly ran dry. Research shows the number running out of gas has risen every year since 2011, when the figure was a third lower. Men made up most of the 827,000 who ignored or chanced their arm when the fuel warning light came on. Are we becoming more risk friendly, foolish or price sensitive?

Published: Aug 20 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

A few years ago I was talking to a guy at a dinner party and he, in the effort to engage in small talk, asked me what I did for a living. When I told him that I trained and consulted in the area of negotiation skills he was intrigued but also fairly dismissive. His view was that he never negotiated. He always got his own way by simply making an ultimatum. His view was that agreeing to negotiate was a sign of weakness and that when dealing with his suppliers he simply told them what they had to do and they did it, or he went elsewhere...

Published: Aug 14 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Last Wednesday evening was a bad time for two different groups of Londoners. At five o’clock the doors of several walk-in centres run by a high profile children’s charity called Kid’s Company closed for the last time, and thousands of children who depended on the charity for both physical and educational support were stranded. There had been suspicions about the financial affairs of this charity for some time – allegations that it was not well managed and that it was not in control of its finances. Central government was a major contributor and when the media picked up stories of financial irregularities they and other generous donors began to think twice about their funding. The final nail in the coffin came when allegations of sexual abuse of children on Kids Company premises were made; the privately donated money dried up completely, and because the charity had virtually no reserves it had to close. It is unlikely to re-open, at least in its present form.

Published: Aug 06 , 2015
Author: Mike Freedman

I was recently invited to teach at a company that purchases the debts of financial institutions and then pursues the people that owe the money. This company buys the debts through a tender process and they then present the debtors with the facts about the law and the unpleasant consequences of non-payment. They called Scotwork because they wanted to improve their negotiations with debtors. They said that they were talking to a number of companies who had issued quotations to them for negotiation training...

Published: Jul 30 , 2015
Author: Sam Macbeth

Although news of a pay differential between men and women doing the same or similar jobs is nothing new, recent studies suggest that even when women are on the employer’s side of a negotiation, men can feel more threatened by a female boss, and tend to negotiate using more extreme positions.

Published: Jul 23 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

I was reading my newspaper recently and came across an article written by a woman journalist who was celebrating the demise of the, as she called it. ‘shiny suited car salesman’ whose sexist attitudes have apparently in the past been responsible for women being urged to do things like ‘discuss their purchases with the man of the house’ before making a decision. This article set out some, to me, quite eye-opening statistics for the UK market in new and ‘pre-owned’ (it’s what they call second hand here) cars. The internet has liberated people to change their purchasing habits when they buy a car. In the days before the internet dominated our buying approach, the average Briton buying a car made five visits to a dealership before making a purchase. Now, most of us do our research on line. You can choose your new car, sort out the finance for it and arrange the part exchange of your old car on line and even arrange delivery without setting eyes on a single shiny suit. Footfall in car dealerships in the UK has apparently fallen in the last few years from 30 million to an anticipated 15 million this year and a projected seven million in 2018. What a revolution! It is said that the second largest purchase we all make after a house is a car and we are moving to doing that without any human interaction – amazing! Or is it? When I bought my current car, I did what in Scotwork we teach – I enriched the deal by talking one to one with the dealer and getting a few extras to make the purchase just that bit sweeter and more personal. For Jane, my wife, the important extra was a fluffy teddy bear dressed in a T-shirt bearing the manufacturer’s logo which she introduced as ‘just one more thing’ as my pen hovered over the contract papers!

Published: Jul 20 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Two negotiated deals of historic significance. One between Greece and the EU/Eurozone, the other between Iran and the P5+1. Both are hailed as a victory for diplomacy. Both are rubbish. Both are being derided and disowned in all quarters. Both are disintegrating as the ink dries. What do we learn?

Published: Jul 09 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

A mate of mine recently visited New York on business and found himself with a spare half day or so, needing to be filled. It being February, the joys of Central Park were lost on him so, after a moment’s thought, he took himself off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there to see their collection of JMW Turner’s paintings in gallery 808. It’s on the second floor; a bit of a hike from the front door if we are going to be honest, but there we are. He’d seen the film (Mr Turner; worth a look if you haven’t seen it) and he was determined to see three of the great man’s paintings that hitherto had escaped his first-hand study...

Published: Jul 02 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

It used to be that people had so much time on their hands that they were forever looking for things to do to fill it. When I talk about wrestling with an octopus I am talking literally, not making an oblique negotiating reference about dealing with slippery salesmen or procurement slight of (many) hands...

Published: Jun 18 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

How many deadlines have been and gone in the continuing saga of the economic chaos in Greece? I would suggest there have been so many that we no longer believe that any of them really mattered – or ever will matter in the future. The crescendo of press speculation in recent days indicates yet again that the media believes we might be getting close to a crisis point. That is because Greece has a large repayment of debt – a tidy €1.6 billion - to make to the International Monetary Fund by June 30th, and there isn’t that much in the Greek coffers, so there is a real possibility that Greece will default that day, triggering the much publicized exit of Greece from the Eurozone, commonly known as the Grexit.

Published: Jun 11 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

A woman tries to board an overcrowded bus at the bus depot. The passengers bar her way. She protests. ‘I must be allowed to get on this bus’ she says. ‘Why’, the other passengers reply. ‘What makes you so important that you should take priority over others who are already on the bus?’ ‘Because I’m the driver’ she says...

Published: Jun 05 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

A relatively small and parochial point this week, but it illustrates that opportunities to negotiate abound. A deal may just improve your position in any walk of life. I have been working in the US this week and flew into JFK on Monday with the intention of staying in Manhattan on Monday prior to starting work on Tuesday. I booked into a small hotel just off Broadway...

Published: May 29 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

A friend of mine is a specialist clothes manufacturer – I do not want to say more than that for fear of identifying him - who, when he opened his factory thirty years ago, was fairly desperate to get one or two big clients to underwrite his business in the first few unsteady years. Fortunately for him, he found a few, one of whom was and is a well-known high street retailer in the UK.

Published: May 21 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

A recent article in the New York Times has some food for thought for wise negotiators. The authors pose this question – How do you motivate people to do the right thing when the ‘market’ doesn’t work?

Published: May 14 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

The recent Argentinian film ‘Wild Tales’ is a compilation of six unrelated fictions about people in desperate situations. I would recommend it to anyone who likes entertaining storytelling, but one of the segments has particular interest for negotiators.

Published: May 07 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

On the day this blog is published the population of the UK vote in elections for their next government. Opinion polls put the two main parties neck and neck, with neither commanding a strong enough following to win an outright majority. So the result is likely to be a minority government which will have to form a coalition or make deals with the handful of minor parties in order to be able to govern. Even if there is an outright majority for one party the margin will be so small that alliances will need to be forged for effective government to survive...

Published: Apr 30 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

There appears to be a new technique being banded about by politicians in the UK, no doubt encouraged by their spin doctors in the long run up to this May’s General Election. This technique or tactic is called throwing a dead cat on the table.

Published: Apr 23 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

We are in political season, so I make no apology for another observation on the political landscape, from which the negotiator can learn so much. All three stories involve the SNP.

Published: Apr 16 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Questions, questions everywhere, and not an answer in sight. Asking good questions is productive, positive, creative, and can help get us what we want. Most people believe this to be true and yet often people do not ask enough questions. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that effective questioning requires to be combined with effective listening.

Published: Apr 10 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Somewhat quietly last Thursday, several days after the expiry of an arbitrary deadline which had been set for the finalization of an agreement on the future of Iran’s nuclear capability, a deal was announced. There was rejoicing on the streets of Teheran, ominous rumblings of discontent in Jerusalem and Riyadh, a touch of triumphalism in Washington, and near silence in London, Paris and Berlin.

Published: Apr 02 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Few weeks ago we asked readers to submit words (made up ones) and their definitions as part of a tongue in cheek exploration of a new vocabulary for the seasoned negotiator to describe behaviours, activities, tricks and techniques they have encountered whilst participating in the noble art of negotiation.

Published: Mar 19 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

What price is cost control? There is a natural tendency for us all to be looking to drive down the cost of what we buy. We all do it. Even those of us who sell stuff, services or products for a living will need to buy, and the same is true for those who buy; they often have to sell, even if it is just themselves to the man.

Published: Mar 12 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Driving to a meeting recently I was brought low by a radio program about dementia. The story, told by her family and her medical team, was of the remainder of the life of a bubbly and vivacious woman who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 80. As her condition worsened she became increasingly uncommunicative and aggressive, and finally died some 13 years later...

Published: Mar 06 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

It has been said that Inuit have more than 17 different words for snow. Why should this be? Anthropologists hold the view that the language we speak both affects and reflects our view of the world. The idea that Inuit have so many words for snow has given rise to the idea that they view snow very differently from people of other cultures. For example, when it snows, many see snow, but Inuit could see any version of their great and varied vocabulary. Using this thinking language is thought to impose a particular view of the world — not just for Inuit languages, but for all groups...

Published: Feb 26 , 2015
Author: Yannis Dimarakis

Most of you have followed (to some extent at least) the negotiations between the recently elected Greek government and its European partners. Depending on his or her political persuasion, an observer may feel in a number of ways regarding the outcome...

Published: Feb 19 , 2015
Author: Yannis Dimarakis

As these lines are written, the negotiations between the Greek government and its Eurogroup partners are still under way. As the end result is not yet known (and probably will not be for some days) some mistakes of the Greek handling of the situation are already discernible. Here are three obvious mistakes I have selected to discuss in this article...

Published: Feb 12 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

A recent TV documentary (The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds) gave a fascinating insight into the way grown-ups work. The film makers fitted out a kindergarten classroom with hidden cameras, and then put a group of 4 year olds into the classroom to interact with each other, under the supervision of two expert teachers, and secretly watched by a group of child psychologists...

Published: Feb 05 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Get mad back? Not so sure. Couple of things have passed my desk this week that have prompted this blog. The first is something that happened to me on one of our Advancing Negotiation Skills courses. One of the participants was asking about how to deal with difficult people. I suspect we have all come across them in our lives be it work or personal. As usual to give myself time to ponder and consider a response, a kind of adjournment, I asked the rest of the group if they had any ideas.

Published: Jan 22 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

Jim Murphy, the new leader of the Labour party in Scotland, was interviewed on the radio recently and the issue of unilateral nuclear disarmament was raised.

Published: Jan 15 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

There is one group for whom cheaper oil is bad news — oil producers, who've been having an amazing run between a combination of higher prices and surging production. For the rest of us it may be pretty good news. For the negotiator there is certainly the potential of a discussion dependent on the relationship between the price of oil and that of your end products, and how you approach it will depend on which side of the fence you sit.

Published: Dec 18 , 2014
Author: The Scotwork Team

On Christmas Day 1914 the guns fell silent on no mans land. English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish Soldiers emerged from their trenches to meet the German enemy to shake hands and exchange gifts. Despite that only hours previously they had been involved in a vicious and unrelenting exchange of bullets, they engaged in an improvised and good humored football match on the battlefields, Germany V Great Britain. Germany it is rumored won 3 – 2. Did it happen? And why?...

Published: Dec 11 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Who does the housework in your house? Seems this is a much bigger issue than you might think. Or maybe it is already a huge issue for you. I suspect it depends on who does it and whether you care. It certainly seems to cause significant conflict if the radio is to be believed...

Published: Dec 04 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

An American President(depending on your politics it could be any American President since Eisenhower) visits a class of 9 year-olds. The class is discussing the meaning of the word tragedy. The President asks ‘Can anyone give me an example of the word ‘tragedy’. Peter says ‘My friend ran into the road and was killed by a passing car – that is a tragedy’. ‘No’, says the President, ‘that is an accident’. Jane says ‘There is a chemical leak at a factory and 2500 people are killed – that is a tragedy’. ‘No’, says the President, ‘I would call that a devastating loss’...

Published: Dec 01 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

It is a very simple equation to look at how margin is impacted by the price a company charges for its products. Take a very easy example of a company whose P&L sheet looks like this;

Published: Nov 13 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth lately amongst the chattering classes and politicians in the UK and, perhaps predictably as we move ever closer to what promises to be the strangest election in recent history, it concerns money and the European Union...

Published: Nov 06 , 2014
Author: Mike Freedman

Frequently people want to talk about their negotiating strategy. My immediate (if private) reaction to this is “oh dear!!” Negotiation is a means of dealing with conflict; it can be stressful. So, in preparation we tend to surround ourselves with all sorts of tools and defenses that will make us feel more powerful or at least more comfortable. For example people like to play out their negotiation strategy before it happens. Their strategy involves a long storyboard, a sequence of exactly what they and the other side will say and do.

Published: Oct 24 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

There are three things that stick out for me from the new series of The Apprentice. The first is that at 10 years old it remains remarkably good telly. The introduction of new tweaks and twists on a familiar format makes it essential viewing if you want to have something to say at the water cooler. Not many programs still pass that test...

Published: Oct 20 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

This week the 2014 Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to Professor Jean Tirole for his writings on the regulation of large corporations. Professor Tirole made his reputation largely on his work about Game Theory; his book (with Drew Fudenberg) called Game Theory is not an easy read. Densely packed with mathematical equations the book tries to explain the behaviour of individuals in a market who make decisions based on their expectations of how their customers, suppliers and competitors are likely to react in the future. Even the first example in the book, which describes how a pie manufacturer would use Game Theory to choose how to set his prices in the market for one single day, would make most people’s head spin...

Published: Oct 03 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

What is the worst thing you can do when negotiating? Lots of things I guess but probably the most obvious one of all is a lack of preparation. Last year was the 30th anniversary of the bestselling book by Chris Ryan, Bravo, Two, Zero. I’ve got to be honest when it first came out I did not read it. I thought it would only be of interest to military types and frankly was a bit embarrassed to read it on the train or tube, which was my main reading time back then...

Published: Sep 29 , 2014
Author: Gaetan Pellerin

We’ve all been trained to hide our emotions in a business environment—especially during negotiation. Keep your emotions out of negotiations or the other side may crush you, right? Not exactly, because you can’t negotiate effectively as a detached robot. So how do you find the happy medium?

Published: Sep 25 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Imagine this scenario. You are driving through city streets as a passenger with a colleague at the wheel. He is driving faster than the speed limit, trying to get a meeting on time, and is involved in a minor accident; no one is hurt but the police are called. Passers-by who witnessed the event tell the police they think your colleague was speeding. He asks you to speak as a witness on his behalf; to testify that he wasn’t speeding. What would you do? The Universalist sees this problem in terms of the uniformity of the application of laws and regulations. The issues of loyalty and the attempt to be punctual for a meeting are irrelevant; if the law has been broken then the consequences should be suffered by all, notwithstanding special circumstances or relationships...

Published: Sep 18 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Publishing this on the day the Scottish population votes on Independence, we are no different from any of the other pundits - unable to forecast the result. But we can forecast that whatever the result the Scottish people will lose their ability to function truly as a democracy. This is because whichever side has the majority the result will be extremely close – 51/49, or 52/48 or something similar. In practical terms therefore about half of the population will getting exactly what they don’t want...

Published: Sep 11 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

On 18 September voters in Scotland will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The final push for votes comes as a YouGov poll run by the Sunday Times suggested that, of those who have made up their mind, 51% planned to back independence, while 49% intended to vote no...

Published: Sep 04 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

I am a big fan of the Kindle. It is convenient, easy to read at night, can carry lots of product, etc., etc. But whilst I still also love books, the Kindle’s massive advantage is the price you pay and the ease by which you can get hold of pretty much any book in print at any time, provided you have internet access. Brilliant...

Published: Aug 21 , 2014
Author: Tom Feinson

As ever it feels like little or no time has elapsed between the end of one season and the beginning of another. The World Cup serves to heighten those feelings, but here we are on the eve of new season, that blissful period where our hopes, dreams and aspirations are as yet undashed...

Published: Aug 07 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

Recently, I found myself in Cork in Ireland. Beautiful place and well worth a visit if you have never been. Its weather (we don’t have a climate in these parts; we just have the weather. Indeed, we spend a lot of time talking about the weather and if we didn’t have it to talk about, then this would a quiet place, let me assure you!) is balmy; never too hot and never too cold. For a man from northern climes it is well-nigh perfect; this does not mean to say though that, from time to time, it does not get hot, because believe me, it does and I happened upon one of the weeks in the year when it was hot, hot, hot!

Published: Aug 01 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

As I write, in Israel and Gaza the conflict continues, and two thousand miles away the aggression between those Ukrainians who want their country to face East, and those who want it to face West also continues. The collateral damage in both cases is tragic; men, women and children who have nothing to do with any political or ideological movement are killed and injured by rockets and tank shells which are aimed indiscriminately at population centers, or which shoot a commercial plane out of the sky...

Published: Jul 24 , 2014
Author: Mark Simpson, Scotwork New Zealand

The media has discovered that Council controlled Auckland Transport is using special shuttles to move staff around Auckland – apparently because it’s faster than the public transport they provide for the rest of us. When challenged Auckland Transport shot themselves in the foot and provided us with a beautiful example of argument dilution...

Published: Jul 17 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

As the summer political season approaches, we can expect to be bombarded from both sides of the pond with statements, postures and photo opportunities, all designed to gain some kind of political advantage. In the US the mid-term elections are being held in November; in May next year the General Election beckons and one of the key players in the British election is looking stateside for as much help as he can get. Ed Miliband has already employed David Axelrod. Axelrod, who helped President Obama to two victories, will join Labour’s general election campaign team as a senior strategic adviser...

Published: Jul 10 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Size matters. But so do lots of other things. It’s all in the detail, and we all know that. So, why are so many problems only discovered after the ink has long dried? The temptation as we approach the end game of a long and difficult negotiation is to heave a great sigh of relief and run to the pub to celebrate a job well done over a glass of our favorite tipple...

Published: Jul 03 , 2014
Author: Rich Waldrop

My daughter’s wedding last summer was a magical day. Still, a few days later when I received the caterer’s final invoice, I noticed something funny: We didn’t get the 10% discount promised to us...

Published: Jun 26 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

When companies get good at providing a service, it becomes convenient to put more and more business their way. They provide an efficient route to market; they give suppliers the chance to make one big delivery instead of four or five smaller ones; their marketing campaigns are slick and entice more customers through their – sometimes electronic – doors...

Published: Jun 19 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Last week it looked like politics was overwhelming the FIFA World Cup. Accusations of financial scandal involving the selection of Qatar as the venue for the 2022 competition, and adverse comment about the potential re-election of 78 year-old Sepp Blatter as President of FIFA dwarfed the press content about the actual soccer. Until, that is, the soccer actually started, after which all the dissent and scandal seemed to fade away...

Published: Jun 12 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Researchers into fatalities caused by storms have made an interesting and rather odd finding. For as long as people have been tracking and reporting hurricanes, also known as tropical cyclones, they’ve been struggling to find ways to identify them. Until well into the 20th century, newspapers and forecasters in the United States devised names for storms that referenced their time period, geographic location or intensity; hence, the Great Hurricane of 1722, the Galveston Storm of 1900, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and the Big Blow of 1913...

Published: May 30 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Until yesterday I thought that the bid by US pharma giant Pfizer for UK based pharma giant AstraZeneca was a flash-in-the-pan piece of opportunism. We first heard of the plan at the beginning of May, when an offer of £50 per share was tabled. The merger would create the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. It was based on two premises, firstly that AstraZeneca were weak because their product portfolio contained a number of high-profit drugs which were coming to the end of their patent protection, and with nothing much in the R&D cupboard to replace them, and secondly because it gave Pfizer an advantage by enabling them to move their head office to the UK and save loads of tax in an avoidance wheeze...

Published: May 22 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Politicians who promise that the streets will be paved with gold and deliver nothing but cobbled cul-de-sacs, managers who claim that the future will be filled with bonuses and jam while delivering dry crust and the negotiator who offers a future filled with high volume orders and pulls them whilst pocketing the promotional bonus. Nothing offends the sensibility quite so much as the empty promise delivered with mind-boggling confidence...

Published: May 15 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

On Wednesday Roger Boyes, the Diplomatic Editor of the London Times, wrote an op-ed piece critical of the West’s approach to the Iranian nuclear situation. You can read the full article here. In summary his view is that during the current negotiations Iranian President Rouhani may be making all the right noises about the lack of intent to build a nuclear bomb, but because he is a transient figure on the Iranian political scene, Boyes suggests that unless there is an agreement to international monitoring of the Revolutionary Guard, which is the stronger and more permanent force in Iranian politics and which controls the Iranian nuclear program, then promises made so far will be worthless. As a result Iran will achieve a nuclear bomb and the world will be powerless to do anything about it in retrospect...

Published: May 08 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

In spite of its largely unknown cast, a promiscuous leading female character, a tragic death and a miniscule budget, Four Weddings and a Funeral is still one of the most successful British films ever made. It is now 20 years since it opened in Britain - making household names of its stars, and taking an estimated $250 million worldwide. Not bad for a budget of less than £3 million...

Published: May 01 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

During the Pistorius trial I happened to spend some time with a friend who is a judge. I asked him if over his 30 years of experience he had developed a sense of who was telling the truth, particularly important when the outcome of a court case between a plaintiff and a defendant at war depended on which version of events the judge believed because there were no witnesses. Yes, he said, you do get a feel for it; it’s not infallible but you usually know who is telling the truth.

Published: Apr 24 , 2014
Author: Rich Waldrop

The contract is a written document that spells out the terms of a deal so there are no misunderstandings. If only it was that easy...

Published: Apr 10 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese Military tactician said “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” I was reminded of this famous quote when I read a review of Robert Lindsay’s new play, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, in which Lindsay talked about his political past...

Published: Apr 03 , 2014
Author: Romana Henry

As a French speaker, I was recently dispatched to the French island of La Reunion, located in the middle of the Indian Ocean close to Mauritius and Madagascar to run a course. What a place! A tropical paradise with wonderful people, beaches, sea, food, scenery, the list goes on and on. My colleague Julien, originally from Paris but living there for the last 10 years – life’s a bitch – told me a lovely story...

Published: Mar 26 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

News pictures of distraught relatives of the passengers on flight MH370, missing now for more than 2 weeks, bring home an uncomfortable truth. Even in the light of technological detective work which broke new ground and determined beyond reasonable doubt that the plane had ditched in a remote part of the South Indian Ocean, many of the bereaved are unconvinced, and say they will remain skeptical until physical evidence of the plane in the sea is produced.

Published: Mar 20 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Alice Walker, author of “The Colour Purple" and civil rights activist said “The most common way that people give up their power, is by thinking they don’t have any”. The reality of the power of what we think was driven home to me recently by the TED talk given by Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, who presented a kind of positive case for stress.

Published: Mar 13 , 2014
Author: David Bannister

I have just returned from holiday and one of the joys of a holiday is having lots of time to read. This holiday, one of the books I read was ‘A Street Cat named Bob’. It’s an uplifting and sometimes challenging book about a recovering drug addict – James Bowen, the author, and his cat, Bob whom he finds in the lobby of his building and whom he helps to recover from neglect and befriends.

Published: Mar 06 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

As the current situation in Ukraine is changing so swiftly that no one has any serious ability to predict the outcome, conflict-resolution pundits should be reading the unfolding events in negotiating terms in order to make sense of what is going on, for themselves and for those who follow them.

Published: Feb 27 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Just how good are we at persuasion? How gullible are you as a negotiator? Not very, you will probably tell me. You do your prep, you check the facts, you are streetwise, and you can normally see a scam or a piece of B/S coming and react accordingly.

Published: Feb 20 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Valentine’s Day gone. Red Roses wilting depressingly in the vase perched on the window sill. Champagne cork stuck behind the book on the top shelf where it landed and will remain, probably till we move house.

Published: Feb 13 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Switzerland's economy is booming at the moment, and unemployment is low, but many Swiss worry about what they see as a looming problem, namely, immigration. Last year 80,000 new immigrants arrived in Switzerland with a relatively small overall population of around 5 million, and foreigners now make up 23% of the inhabitants. It is the continent's second highest foreign population after Luxembourg, for whom 42% are immigrants.

Published: Feb 06 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

The Winter Olympic Games open in Sochi this Friday, but any expectation that there would by now be a rising tide of enthusiasm for the splendor of the opening ceremony or the thrill of the sports on show has been dashed. Instead we only read about the likelihood of a Chechen terrorist attack, the possible effect on athletes and spectators of recently enacted anti-gay Russian legislation and the appalling prospect that some Western journalists might find their hotel bedrooms are unfinished.

Published: Jan 30 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

For a man who trained as a physician at the University of Damascus and who spent two years in post graduate training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital, part of the St Mary’s group of teaching hospitals in London; a man, furthermore, who had few, if any, political aspirations until his brother’s death in 1994, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is taking a pretty myopic view of retaining political power! For the past two years he and the Syrian political establishment have been engaged in a ruthless battle for power with the loosely-defined but western-supported opposition rebel forces.

Published: Jan 09 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

New Year’s resolutions. We all do them. Although I have to say come March time they tend to have disappeared unlike the food belly that sadly gets a little bit bigger and more stubborn with each passing decade. So what’s the point? I guess they give us a little bit of focus for what should be important to us following a couple of weeks off from the ever spinning, ever faster treadmill that we call life.

Published: Dec 19 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland, Partner

On the BBC news website in a move eerily reminiscent of Laura Ashley and John Lewis (see 28 March blog), it has been confirmed yesterday that department store Debenhams has told suppliers of its own brand products to cut their bills by 2.5% as a "contribution" to its investment plans”. It said it would deduct this from all outstanding payments on Tuesday night and would apply another discount of 2.5% to orders open on its system.

Published: Dec 12 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Today’s friend is tomorrow’s foe in this dynamic and complex world. Barely a day goes by without mergers, acquisitions, take-overs (hostile or not) or promotions, that take the guy you were managing and makes him your boss. How do we best manage our relationships to get the most out of them in this constant flux?

Published: Dec 06 , 2013
Author: David Bannister

“Please take your seats promptly after the coffee break” said the organizer at KPMG’s International Partners’ Conference in Cape Town in 1999. “We have a special guest”. Twenty minutes later the 150 or so of us at the conference watched Nelson Mandela, then approaching his eightieth birthday, walk slowly down the catwalk past us all and to the lectern in the center. He carefully and deliberately read a prepared speech telling us how important it was for the city to be able to welcome such a distinguished group of international business leaders.

Published: Nov 22 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

After the failure, albeit perhaps temporarily, of the negotiations in Geneva last weekend between the Iranian Foreign Minister and representatives of the superpowers over the future of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, US Secretary of State John Kerry gave an interview to the BBC. The transcript can be found here . My interest was drawn to this extract:

Published: Nov 07 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Remember, remember… In many aspects of life one of the most important aspects is, wait for it, timing. A good gag, the perfect time to hit a volley, the lightest of soufflés, all require a mixture of patience, confidence and skill to get the best reaction from your audience, competitor or diners...

Published: Oct 17 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

The Oxford English Dictionary defines charm as ‘the power or quality of delighting, attracting, or fascinating others’. It is a word which has been much used recently about the newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in particular in connection with the speech he made to the United Nations General Assembly on September 24th. It is difficult to know how much the world’s perception of his charm is actually a reflection on the lack of this same quality in his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But whatever the cause, the result is that Western politicians who have for so long been skeptical about the official Iranian line that their nuclear development program is entirely peaceable, and who firmly believe that Iranian support of the Assad regime is the pivotal reason that the regime survives, now appear to be prepared to take more seriously President Rouhani’s platitudes on these issues (you can read a transcript of his speech here ). As a result, negotiations on both issues which were stalled for years have now restarted, with the Iranian influence significantly upgraded as a result of Mr Rouhani’s charm offensive

Published: Oct 10 , 2013
Author: Mike Freedman

Before working with a powerful FMCG company in Europe I asked of the thousands of points of sale they have how many client relationships they lose every year to competing companies. The company proudly announced that last year they lost less than 1% annually to competition. I dared to suggest that 1% is probably not enough and that they need to lose more business. This did not deter them from working with us and here’s why...

Published: Sep 26 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Gordon Brown's, (the Labour parties former leader and British Prime Minister), former spin doctor has revealed how he regularly attempted to discredit the aspiring PM’s rivals by leaking stories about them to the media. In extracts of a memoir published in the Daily Mail last week, Damian McBride claims he smeared Labour ministers including Charles Clarke and John Reid during Mr Brown's bid to succeed Tony Blair...

Published: Aug 29 , 2013
Author: Mike Freedman

When we ask people to define negotiation on the Scotwork pre-course paperwork, purchasing people very often refer to “finding a middle road” or “common ground”. They deal every day with variables about which they and the people across the table feel differently and what they really mean is “let’s split the difference”. Sales people however refer to “persuasion” often as their all-encompassing definition of negotiation. This persuasion they see as a unilateral process of changing the view of the other party in order to have them accept their offer or opinion. Salespeople often consider this to be an essential fundamental skill of their trade...

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...

Published: Aug 16 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

I want you to try a little experiment. Think of a simple tune. Something like Happy Birthday to You. (The most performed song in the English language, incidentally). Now find a colleague, friend or partner and tap out the song for them without telling them the name of the song...

Published: Aug 09 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland, Partner

Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport has, for the past month, played host to a pawn in the international diplomacy game, one Edward Snowden. Mr Snowden is a "whistle-blower" who, depending on your point of view, has courageously defended the rights of downtrodden untermensch the world over, or on the other hand has committed a treasonous offence so heinous as to be punishable by a lengthy spell behind bars - a spell so long that all kinds of keys may just as well be thrown down various drains...

Published: Jul 25 , 2013
Author: David Bannister

'Of course!' I hear you say, 'lover of Mozart, GSOH, NS and follower of Yorkshire County cricket!' That's not what I meant, actually. I am wondering if there is a particular personality type who might make a more natural negotiator than other types do. I have to tell you that if you are compelled to read further, please do, but I am not going to give the answer to the question, because I don't know it. I intend to try to find out, though...

Published: Jul 18 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

While I love the sight of a Chinese lantern drifting off aimlessly into a moonlit night on a lovely summers evening, I am not sure I will ever light one again. The apocalyptic blaze caused by one of these burning lanterns landing on the Jayplus recycling unit in Smethwick near Birmingham was captured live on CCTV. The resulting wall of flames could be seen from 80 miles away and the damage cost a reported £6 million. Not to mention the risk to life and limb bourn by the heroic fire service trying to manage the disaster....

Published: Jul 11 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland, Partner

As early as May this year, Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary and UK cabinet minister, warned that "a cabal at the top of the Labour national executive was trying to exert influence", and that the Labour leader, Ed Miliband "was storing up danger for himself and for a future Labour government over parliamentary selections". The row had blown up because Unite, the largest trade union in the UK, and in a move reminiscent of the Militant Tendency's tactics in the 1970s and 80s, had quietly been infiltrating local labor constituency parties with their members by paying their membership fees en bloc. The union had specifically targeted seats where a selection was coming up...

Published: Jun 21 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland, Partner

Britvic PLC is a big company. Last year, it sold 1.9 bil gallons of soft drinks and it employs approximately 3500 people. Brands include Tango, J2O, Robinsons as well as its eponymous mixer drinks. It has a Scottish-based rival called A G Barr plc, makers of the iconic Scottish drink, Irn Bru (made from girders!), as well as Tizer and other well-known brands. A G Barr is also a big player in the soft drinks market with a turnover last year of £237m....

Published: Jun 13 , 2013
Author: Mike Freedman

Taking a position in a conflict makes its resolution more difficult. And the more witnesses there are to that position-taking the less the likelihood of a negotiated settlement. In Istanbul positions have been taken in the most public sense possible in front of a global audience and I am not alone in fearing that a settlement is unlikely in the short-term...

Published: Nov 14 , 2012
Author: Stephen White

Abu Qatada is a Jordanian cleric. He is also an alleged terrorist. He was found guilty in a Jordanian court, in his absence, of committing terrorist crimes. He has lived in the UK since 1993, and until yesterday he was in custody in the UK. The British government have been attempting to deport him to stand trial in Jordan, but he claims that his human rights would be breached if he was sent home because some of the evidence against him has been obtained from witnesses who were tortured. UK and European law prevents a suspected criminal being tried in these circumstances. So deportation has been refused by the courts. On Tuesday he was released from prison, although he will be closely monitored, and protected. The UK government are hopping mad and have pledged to continue to fight to send him home to Jordan...

Published: Nov 02 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

Years ago I got a call from a client with whom we had a long-term project-based relationship. We had submitted some creative work for a project along with a fee proposal. Our fee was in line with previous work, and we knew from our benchmarking alongside other creative agencies that whilst we were not the cheapest, we certainly offered great value. We had always scored highly against the client’s quality scorecards. My client contact told me that his procurement director had been reviewing marketing costs and was all over him like a cheap suit....

Published: Oct 19 , 2012
Author: Romana Henry

My 14 year old daughter's volleyball team received new strips from their supplier this season (shorts and short sleeved shirts). New style, new material, not cheap! After their first match, the girls were mortified at huge black patches of sweat appearing under their arms - apparent to all, even without raising their arms! They rushed to cover their new strips up in between their first and second match. They then all whinged and moaned incessantly. Nothing new there, but this time with a reason. No previous strip had ever met with any such complaints...

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Muck Shift

Just when is a deal not a deal…? I heard this story from a friend of mine the other week; there are some lessons to be learned! So, my pal is a developer and is building some houses on what is essentially a square site. Two sides of the square can be accessed from the road in a neighboring housing estate and the other two are beside a field owned by another developer. There is a huge pile of muck to shift before the actual building project; this phase is known in the trade – and not unreasonably - as a "muck-shift"! As there will be 80 -100 lorries coming in and out each day for 6 weeks, it was considered more convenient to access the site over the field, so an approach was made to the developer to discuss the terms under which he would allow access. This is a standard arrangement and the deal typically is that the field would be returned to the owner in its original condition. Developer makes a bit of money, where otherwise he wouldn’t; homeowners in the adjoining estate are less inconvenienced; builder does not need to spend money cleaning the streets and getting them back to a usable state at the end of the project. Win-win.

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