Negotiating Trade Deals:

Below is an edited reprint from my seminal “Profiting At The Bottom Line” series from a few years ago. I believe this one, in particular, is more germane to the topics of today than when I first presented it. The reasoning is this: I was in a dispute with the both the appointed quasi-political business leadership, as well as the local political.

What this has in common with today’s trade wars with China (as well as Brexit) is far more than most will give any passing thought. Most situations, both in life and business, are really only larger versions of the same things.

As many of you are well aware, I do not see the current trade war (or Brexit for that matter) through the same lens as the mainstream financial/business punditry does. I believe it’s a “war” that needs to be taken on – and now. For the current status-quo has been a detriment to the U.S. as a whole and gone on for far, far too long.

And for those that think I’m picking a political side here, let me be clear: I don’t care if a penguin was currently holding the office. If this was the act and deeds of a penguin? Color me – all in. Period.

Most that have lived through the slings and arrows to tell, work, or create another business will tell you, without pause: It’s all about understanding people, first. Understanding your business comes second. Get the first right – the second falls into place much easier. Get the second right and not the first? The business doesn’t stand a chance to stay in business.

Here’s a caveat: When it comes to negotiations: It’s all about the first, first and foremost. And only negotiations that result in real consequences matter in business. Follow through is not only the key, it’s a must that must actually be implemented. See Brexit alone for more insight on that one.

So with that all said, here’s that note. To wit:

This month’s focus: Not All Business Associations Have Your Best Interest

There are many good trade associations, as well as select business advocates, that take your business interests to heart. And through the power of association in numbers try to address issues; lobby law makers; offer assistance through red tape and more.

Then there are those that try to bridge the gap between public and private enterprise for the sole purpose of being the middleman. Where having one foot planted firmly on both sides of the spectrum makes prudent sense for everyone involved.

The problem occurs when the “middleman” forgets their role and acts in its own best interest rather, than its raison d’être i.e., They are there for the other parties benefit (i.e., the collaboration of businesses they are suppose to represent) – not their own.

Case Study: Circa 2000 after an LBO I was in the process of closing fell through, I decided to shed the corporate world and instead go back to my roots and open a free-standing sole proprietor based enterprise. I hadn’t decided exactly what until one day I was driving down the main drag of a town I once lived, and saw they were revitalizing the downtown district. As I looked around I thought “this would be a great place for a deli” and then proceeded down the road of a more formal inquiry.

My proposal and ideas were met with open arms, and within a few months, I indeed went ahead and made the investment opening its doors within 6 months.

At the time I was the talk of the town and things were moving along slow but steady, with future prospects looking well. However, within about a years time I began to notice odd talk, as well as deeds coming from the entity whose sole purpose was to help and be a liaison for this downtown district, as they (the liaison) made moves that seemed anything but.

Many seemingly fortunately timed “coincidences” that were said to be “impromptu” began taking place. However, I felt differently and began to take far more notice.

Over the course of about another year this “downtown director” seemed to be acting as if they owned the downtown rather, than worked for it. The warnings signs began to scream danger as I watched with discerning interest.

Suddenly, a “move” was made by this director that I could not ignore, let alone, allow to stand.

The move (a bit too detailed for this column) was in direct violation of any business principles, where the well-being of the downtown members should be first. In other words, this “move” put them (the director and organization) both at odds and in direct competition with the businesses they were supposedly “there to help.”

I made it well-known just how indifferent to it I was.

I subsequently went around to a few of the other members, as well as a few elected officials, and informed them that something stunk-to-high-heaven. I didn’t know exactly what, but something was wrong, where I was sure it had repercussions for the whole district if this person wasn’t looked into.

It fell on deaf ears however, the ears of this director were anything but.

They heard (i.e., were told behind the scenes) every word and approached (more like confronted) me at my place of business. I was told I “was off base, didn’t understand the way these types of developments work,” etc., etc.

I would have none of it and stated emphatically why everything they were professing was the abject opposite to not only my business, but the downtown as a whole and more.

I followed my argument with the declaration that: I felt so strongly on these issues, that I would close my business in 6 months and leave this area, because anything less would not be good business. Why?

True business practices demanded precisely that, regardless of any short term losses I may incur. If I didn’t? it would just be a matter of time before i was out of business, regardless.

So the question is: Did I do just that? i.e., put my business, money and livelihood where my mouth was.

Answer: Yes, I did, just as I said. Because, as I said: anything less was not business in my eyes, and I would be kidding myself to think I could “work through it.” Hint: you can’t, it’s only a matter of time.

“So what is the point to all of this?” you may be asking. Well, here’s the final results and I’ll let you decide…

A few years later I was sitting at my home around the holidays when my wife handed me the local newspaper with a smile saying “Merry Christmas, you were right!” As I opened the paper there, on the front page, was that very downtown with far more closed storefronts in obvious disarray. And the reason for the story?

That “director” had been arrested and subsequently sent to prison for embezzling 6 figures plus from that downtown development to fund an internet gambling addiction.

Understand, you’re currently only reading this via the sole reason the person writing it followed the best piece of business advice I ever discovered, honed and still practice. e.g., “It’s all about understanding people, understanding your business comes second. Get the first right – the second falls into place much easier.”

The above incident nearly crippled me both financially, as well as negatively affecting my business psyche for years. Actually doing what I did, when I did it, in that particular moment of time of my career, was one of the hardest things I ever did. But if I wanted to reach the goals I set, which were extraordinary in comparison to my peers – it demanded that I did just what I did. Even if everything else failed later.

All business is the same: a blood-sport. Only the match levels and prize money change. Nothing more.

© 2019 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™ is a monthly memo, which is pithy, powerful, and to the point. It focuses on innovative techniques and or ideas that you can put to work immediately in your daily or business life.