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Is Mark Cuban Right?

Brian Buck
230717 Is Mark Cuban Right

Over the past week, Mark Cuban has shown up in a variety of articles, offering negotiation tips. The Shark Tank co-star and billionaire investor has been doling out a lot of advice, much of which I agree with, including one piece that I wouldn’t have associated with him: never try to “win.”

As Cuban admits, he’s as “competitive as they come.” If you’ve seen him on the sidelines at Dallas Mavericks games, that’s readily apparent, particularly during his rants against NBA referees. So, it’s slightly shocking that he uses this mantra when it comes to negotiating.

We’re often asked about how to create win-win deals. Our view of a successful negotiation is one that both sides can support. If you’re able to accomplish that, then you have a winning deal. 

I’m not a fan of the term “win-win” because it implies that both parties need to walk away with equal value. That’s not a requirement of a winning deal. I’ve seen a lot of deals where one side gets much more value than the other side, but both parties are happy with the outcome. However, I’ve also seen deals fall apart when the side that was getting more got more due to greed or as a result of a power imbalance. 

In one article, Cuban said, “If you get something more, great, but I never try to get to a point where somebody really feels like they’ve been abused, because that’s karma, that always comes around.” He’s right.

The karma he speaks of has to do with what happens to the other side once the deal is done. No one likes to lose. If a party feels like they lost or lost face or were embarrassed, they tend to spend an extraordinary amount of energy trying to rectify the situation. In other words, they put their discretionary effort behind winning the next deal. 

It typically starts with how they carry out the deal they lost. They may begin to:

  • “Nickel-and-dime” everything in the relationship; there will be no favors.
  • Demand changing unfavorable terms every time they’re asked to change the agreement.
  • Do the minimum to meet the contract’s obligations.
  • Avoid going above and beyond when opportunities present themselves.
  • Look for every opportunity to regain value.

If you’re currently seeing this play out, it might be because the other side feels like they lost the last deal — and it might be worth exploring why they feel that way. This type of behavior is unproductive and creates significant issues in the relationship. In addition, the losing side will develop a war room to prepare themselves so as not to be taken advantage of in the next negotiation, as well as plot a strategy for getting back everything they lost. Karma.

Here are some tips to ensure you’re getting a good deal — and not just going in for the kill:

  1. Identify what you need in the deal. Understand this before you negotiate, as it will be the metric for knowing when you’ve got the deal you need. 
  2. Understand what the other side needs. As I said, a good deal is one that both sides can implement. Therefore, you need to know the other side’s finish line too. Do your research and ask them questions to better understand their needs.
  3. Keep the relationship in mind. Most business agreements are between parties that do ongoing work together. Therefore, you should consider the impact of what you’re getting (or giving) on your relationship. If it’s additive, then go for it. If it’s destructive, then steer clear.

In the end, every negotiator will have to ask themselves, “Is winning more important than a good deal?” I think you know Cuban’s and my answers.


We Can Help You Know When You’re Getting a Good Deal.
Does your team use a negotiation to go in for the kill, as opposed to creating a deal that both sides can support? If so, they’re damaging a relationship as the other party seeks to get back everything they lost. We can help! Draw on Scotwork’s nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience to get better deals, save time, and create value that preserves and strengthens relationships. Partner with one of our advisers to ensure you have the optimum view of your deal.

Talk to one of our experts today.

Brian Buck
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