It’s Mardi Gras time! For more than 300 years, we’ve been celebrating Mardi Gras — beginning in Fort Louis de la Louisiane (now Mobile, AL) and settling, a few years later, in the Mardi Gras capital of the US, New Orleans. Up till a couple of years ago, saying there was a mask mandate at Mardi Gras wouldn’t have been a big deal, because there’s always been a mask mandate at Mardi Gras. In fact, it’s one of the oldest mask mandates in our nation’s history.
In the early 1800s, New Orleans passed a law stating that all float riders had to wear masks, thus cementing Mardi Gras’ mask-wearing traditions. Ever since, anyone who’s been to Mardi Gras, or thinks of Mardi Gras, thinks of Mardi Gras masks, because every subsequent generation has kept the tradition alive. But who knew that nearly 200 years later, “mask wearing” would mean something completely different? The tradition has been challenged.
Recently, I was working with a client who’s preparing for a negotiation with a vendor regarding a contract that’s been in place for some time. In fact, it’s been in place so long, it predated her and her two predecessors’ tenures. The same can be said on the vendor’s side. Literally, no one who negotiated the original contract was still around, yet both sides have worked diligently to keep the tradition of the terms alive — till now.
Over the past few years, the traditional terms of the agreement have been challenged. Most of them were set at a time when customer demand was more predictable, supply chains not as strained, and market conditions more stable. Suffice it to say, the terms no longer met our client’s needs.
Our client’s challenge was how to change precedent — particularly where there was no cause for dissatisfaction other than the current environment not being supported by the terms of the agreement. If the relationship were eroding or the vendor had failed to deliver, it would’ve been much easier to change precedent due to a self-evident reason for the change. In this case, our client and the vendor had a great relationship. The vendor had performed all required services in a more than satisfactory manner, but our client knew that the current approach was inefficient and needed to be changed before it had an impact on the relationship and service delivery.
The way to change precedent, in a manner that’s acceptable to both parties, is by finding the motivation to change. If you’re in the driver’s seat, you could certainly just demand change. The downside to that approach is that the other party will always seek a way to fight the change and maintain the status quo. Then, when the power shifts (and it always does), the other side will find a way to go back to how it was, or even seek retribution. You see this play out after every general election, when control over the White House and/or Congress changes hands: The laws and executive orders that had been forced upon the party now in control get overturned. However, if there’s mutual motivation to change, then the precedent (the tradition) will be changed forever.
We Can Help You Break With Contractual Tradition.
Are you stuck in a long-standing contract whose terms have been strained by changes in customer demand, supply chains, and market conditions? Are you looking to change precedent in a manner that’s acceptable to both parties? We can help! Drawing on nearly 50 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.