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Reopening and Renegotiating

Brian Buck
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What a difference a month makes! The beginning of May gave us the great debate on which states were going to open up and which states would remain closed. Almost every state had plans in place, vowing to put the safety of their citizens first. Some promised immediate reopening, while others claimed that they wouldn’t consider it until July. Then, almost overnight, we found ourselves . . . here, as all 50 states are either reopening entirely or at least regional. While emotions are mixed — some are rejoicing while others are nervous — there’s no denying the pressure it’s putting on all businesses to figure out their next step. Do you have it all figured out?

Our business was fortunate enough to have been working on a virtual solution to help our clients with their corporate sustainability initiatives around reducing their carbon footprint and waste. As it turns out, our sustainability solution also works well in the midst of a pandemic. Even so, we had to make difficult decisions, not to mention adjustments to a chaotic marketplace, while doing what we could to keep our team safe. However, every business was faced with new challenges, from doing more with less to completely shutting down. But as things reopen, a whole new wave of uncertainty is upon us: How do we conduct business in this new normal.

Every day presents a new set of challenges, but some trends are starting to emerge. If we’re mindful of those trends, we’ll be able to deal with this new uncertainty in a far more graceful way than, perhaps, we did when COVID-19 came crashing down on us.

Tomorrow will be different from today.

This is strange to say, considering that many of us have fallen into the same routines every day, and each day tends to blend into the next. Going beyond our personal shelter-in-place monotony, there’s no way any of us could’ve predicted where this was all headed. In January, it was a small story happening to someone else. In February, we started to take notice as airlines began canceling flights to COVID-19-impacted countries. And by March, governors were issuing statewide stay-at-home orders with almost everyone beginning to write off 2020. But here we are, with a heartbeat, talking about potentially salvaging part of this year. So, tomorrow will be different from today.

Therefore, build near-term plans with long-term change in mind. Before solidifying new agreements, think about what happens to the agreement in the event of a change. Consider how it will help you and how it will hurt you — then build in triggering events to protect yourself in the event that those changes occur. If you’re unclear about future events, then think about doing shorter-term agreements until things start to stabilize.

There are 7.8 billions ways to look at this.

Mine is but one opinion about this. There are 7.8 billion other people on this planet who might have a different point of view. You’re going to come across people who do not see the world the way you do — and that’s OK! Use this to your advantage. Seek to understand instead of seeking to be right. When it comes to negotiating, those who argue to win typically lose out on more valuable deals.

When you’re negotiating with someone who sees the world differently, don’t waste time trying to get them to see it your way. Chances are, you’ll waste a lot of time and not move the needle very much. Instead, seek common ground to build momentum. Or find ways to give them what they want on terms that are acceptable to you. Or agree to different outcomes based on whomever has the right prediction. Just keep in mind that a proposal will beat an argument every day of the week. So, skip the circular arguments and move to more value-creating conversations, like proposal-making.

Roll with it.

As Steve Winwood sang, “When life is too much, roll with it, baby.” I wish I could tell you that COVID-19 is the only uncertainty we’re going to face this year, but it’s not. If you haven’t noticed, it’s also an election year. And the UK is dealing with Brexit. And there might be a second wave of the coronavirus . . . and . . . and . . . Unfortunately, there’s always something. But if we let the somethings paralyze us, then the nothings get done.

Take Steve’s advice and learn to roll with it. You might ask, “What does that have to do with negotiating?” Actually . . . everything. The best negotiators can stay cool under pressure. They don’t let the emotion of the moment get the best of them. No matter what happens, they maintain composure and, you guessed it, roll with it. So, if you ever start feeling like you can’t roll with it, roll out of your negotiation and take a break. Go for one of those coronavirus walks we’ve all grown accustomed to, and when you’ve got a handle on things, come back to the table and keep rolling, baby.

Ready or not, this next chapter is happening. The best we can do now is adjust accordingly and move with the situation. A new day will be here tomorrow. Stay calm. Stay healthy. Stay safe. 



Need Help with the New Normal?

Whatever your new normal is, we can help you adjust and be successful at the negotiating table. Drawing on 45 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.


Talk to one of our experts today.

Brian Buck
More by Brian Buck:
Listen Up, Ya’ll!
Words Matter
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