Golfing (badly) with my chum on Sunday evening, I asked what the week ahead at work held for her. She works for a charity that looks after children with severe autism, their parents, and carers, providing them with vital respite, amongst other things. They, like all charities, have had a terrible year through the pandemic not only with the lack of donations and funding but staffing issues with sickness and people self-isolating resulting in many parents and carers not getting the much-needed support this charity provides.
She explained that, as we come out of lockdown, while some people will continue to work from home, at least part-time, others must be physically in the offices which are situated near the children’s residences. The charity is amalgamating various offices into one central office, so they need a larger office. They have looked around for months but found nothing to suit in the right location. They have the option of staying where they are, in an industrial estate which is made up of various offices of different sizes but moving into larger (now empty) offices. My friend was planning to talk to the owners to see how much more they would charge for the larger offices.
Wait a minute, who has the power here? The property owners will surely be keen to keep you and the rental income given the other offices have been vacated and are lying empty and costing them money. The country is awash with empty commercial properties, so the power is surely in the hands of those looking to rent. I think there’s a deal to be done here. All this as I was pitching onto the 4th green.
Don’t you ask them to make you a proposal, you make the proposal yourself. Tell them you are looking to move to a larger (but no more expensive) office and that there are lots of options available to you. Tell them you want the larger office but can’t pay more than the current rent. Unrealistic – I don’t think so. Ballsy? Perhaps but you don’t ask, you don’t get. What’s the worst that could happen? They say ‘no’. If so, no harm done. ‘No’ is only the starting point of most negotiations anyhow. I presented 3 options to my friend (and missed my birdie putt):
- You try to persuade them and play the pandemic, no budget, we’re a charity, card (emotional blackmail if you prefer, but worth a try)
- You ask some great open-ended questions and listen carefully to the response – perhaps you can problem-solve a mutually beneficial and low-cost solution.
- You negotiate – you are going to have to trade something back to them, to get what you want. Not knowing that much about the variables potentially involved in this negotiation I suggested using one of the most common and easily applicable ones – Time. How long is your lease normally? 1 year. Could you extend this? Yes possibly. When do you pay the rent? Monthly – could you pay 3 months upfront? Possibly. What would you really love to have? Free use of additional meeting rooms. Ok so here’s the next proposal you make, ‘If you agree to give us the larger office at the same price as the smaller office, then we will sign an 18-month lease rather than a 1-year lease’. They say ‘2 years’ for the lease. Close the deal by asking for either free use of meeting rooms once a month, a couple of extra car parking spaces or use of the storage shed outside, or bike racks, or whatever non-contentious things you could get which are of value to you but low cost to them. This additional request should compensate your move from 18 months to 2 years of lease.
I don’t yet know how my friend got on with her negotiation yet, but I can tell you that I went around the course on Sunday 12 shots over my handicap and lost 3 balls.
Three points to note:
- As negotiators, we often underestimate the power we have, or indeed we don’t stop to think about where the power lies and how we best exploit it. Before any negotiation, part of your preparation should involve analysing the power balance by asking yourself, what do we have that they want and what do we have that they want to avoid and what do they have that we want and that we want to avoid.
- The power of a Proposal – you be the one to make the first proposal if you know what you want. Be bold but realistic and be prepared for initial rejection with various options to counter.
- If you’re playing golf, concentrate on your golf and keep the smarty pants advice until you’re at the 19th hole