The Zen Art of Cooperative Negotiation

zen-negotiationThe common image of an M&A negotiation between a buyer and a seller is that of a rugby scrum: two masses of interlocked muscled bodies scheming and bulldozing their collective strengths in opposing directions in an effort to secure the prize without compromise and ultimately yield one winner and one loser.

In contrast, what I call the “Zen Art of Cooperative Negotiation” is a playing field where the players (the principals and their attorney, M&A broker, and other advisors and stakeholders) become more collaborative and the outcome rewards everyone. The goal is win-win. There are no losers.

Below is a list of strategies that support a cooperative negotiation of business acquisitions, mergers, sales and other business transactions.

  1. Patience. Find a tempo that both can live with. A relaxed, easy swing usually gets more distance and greater accuracy. Set a realistic time frame checklist that keeps everyone on task but allows flexibility.
  2. Accept the personalities that are in the negotiation. Suspend judgment, keeping in mind that the end game is a successful transaction, not a personality contest.
  3. Share your objectives and listen. If you know what your end games are, you can be more mindful of the elements that will get you there. A “give and take” philosophy preserves self respect and encourages cooperation.
  4. Don’t burn bridges. Visualize the negotiation process as a cross country hike, not a tip toe through a minefield. You will encounter obstructions on the journey but with time and effort, most can be resolved. . . .but only if you leave the door open.
  5. Concentrate with your mind and stay loose with your spirit. A clear headed approach tempered with occasional humor can alleviate the stress and tension and optimize performance.
  6. Be honest. Full disclosure is always the best policy, and that applies equally to what you don’t know.

You can connect with Don Ross at 707-778-0210 or