Lost in Space was a classic television show broadcast on CBS between 1965 and 1968. A young Billy Mumy played the part of Will Robinson who regularly interacted with the Robot. For those of you too young to remember, the plot centered on a modern day Swiss Family Robinson, marooned in space where the goal was to somehow figure out how to return to Earth. I enjoyed watching this show in black and white, and later in color, while Will and his family would constantly encounter misadventures. One of the most epic lines was spoken in a raised voice by the Robot – “Danger Will Robinson; Danger!” whenever Will was about to be eaten by some exotic space creature, or step into an abyss that lay below some cosmic quicksand.
We entrepreneurs need our own version of the Robot to help us avoid many of the missteps that we encounter in our daily lives. One such opportunity for disaster comes when we are in the middle of negotiating. In my world, we’re always buying and selling apartment properties. Let’s use the acquisition of one such property as the example for this blog. The property in question seems to perfectly fit our acquisition strategy. The location is right, the property age falls within the target time frame, the unit mix is perfect and historical data shows a very strong operation for the past several years. But . . . the price is significantly higher than we can pay to generate the return on investment we are seeking.
We negotiate back and forth. Offers and counteroffers ensue, but we just aren’t quite at the price we’re looking for. Here’s where we need the Robot to save us from ourselves. There’s a psychological threshold at which point we are committed to getting the deal done. We’re vulnerable at that point to being taken advantage of. Maybe we start looking at our projections again and tinker with the annual rent increase percentage we initially underwrote. When we do this, the numbers work and we’re able to close the deal. Yet, are the new rent increase projections realistic? Or are we simply looking for a way to rationalize the adjustment? I’ve certainly done it before. My reasoning went like this, “The standard 3% increase on this property is approximately $25 per month. Another .5% pushes the rent up by $29 per month. A renter isn’t going to balk at $29 any more than at $25, so I’m comfortable using an annual rent increase factor of 3.5%.” Now, it’s very possible that this line of reasoning is sound. But it’s important to understand the motivation behind it. Are we modifying our projections just to get the deal done, or are we really being ultra-conservative and there really isn’t going to be a problem with the rent increase tweak?
There’s a fine line to walk between being creative to successfully complete a negotiation, and allowing our emotions to drive the terms and conditions that we are willing to accept. By establishing strategic parameters in advance, we can avoid becoming vulnerable to doing a bad deal. For example, we will only acquire an apartment property that’s of sufficient size that we aren’t compelled to purchase a second or third property in the same market just to gain management efficiencies and economies of scale. It’s also important to remember to separate business negotiations from personal ones. Buying a piece of artwork for a personal residence is an emotional decisions and it is acceptable to allow emotions to enter into the negotiations. Making a business acquisition of some sort should be completely divorced of emotion in all but the rarest instances.
In a business negotiations, understanding where the line is between sound decision making and being vulnerable to manipulation, is critical. Establishing strategic parameters before the negotiations commence and then sticking to them during the negotiating process, will help us avoid crossing this line.
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This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.