Supply chain 13 July 2017

The art of negotiation What small business leaders can learn from Brexit

European union flag against parliament in Brussels,  Belgium
To master the art of negotiation, need to be adaptable to every possible situation
Here, Neil Clothier, a senior strategist at Huthwaite International, talks the art of negotiation, the David Davis approach and what small business owners can learn from conversations in Brussels.

When it comes to Brexit, it’s fair to say that we have a complex negotiation deal on our hands. Indeed, were arguably about to embark on the largest negotiation process that has faced the UK since perhaps our entry into the EU itself.

With a web of policies to unpick and unprecedented amounts of regulation to negotiate, teamed with a changeable political climate and media exposure to boot, the chances are David Davis and Theresa May alike are feeling more than a little overwhelmed when it comes to planning and preparing to make the negotiation of the century.

That said, this does pose an opportunity for small businesses to learn some key lessons when it comes to negotiating. Savvy small business owners should take heed, were about to witness an example of complex negotiation skills being played out on the world stage like never before, and it’s almost a certainty that key lessons can be learned and maximised for those that deal with negotiations day in day out no matter what your company size.

In fact, lessons have already been learned. There are four key ingredients to perfecting the art of negotiating; power, strategies and tactics, preparation and planning and, finally, behavioural skills. If you master these four elements, you will become an effective negotiator. That said, these skills are by no means easy to implement something that has already been demonstrated three-fold when it comes to Brexit.

By calling a snap election, May was looking to send out a clear tactical message we are united, we are strong and we are ready for a challenge. May didnt win a majority and, as a result, we have the first example of how utilising power, tactics and behaviour skills when negotiating is no easy task, not least when concerning a high-risk deal.

Information is power. The messages sent by either party, intended or not, have impact. Weve already seen the British government very deliberately send messages that the Chinese market, the Commonwealth and USA are fall back markets and theyd do well to bolster alternative trade deals to avoid appearing too eager to gain a deal at any cost with the EU.

A no deal is better than a bad deal? stance requires viable and credible alternatives if it is to be used to leverage concessions from the other party. Power in negotiation is only ever as good as the alternatives or fall back positions one party has at its disposal if this negotiation breaks down.

On the other side of the channel weve already seen the other 27 member states collectively and very effectively, so far, control their information flow to avoid leaks that could erode the EU’s position and trading power.

Those of you involved in multi-stakeholder deals will know all too well the political turf wars that go on within your own organisations to understand just how challenging this must be, and the amount of influencing, preparation and planning taken to corral 27 governments, their politicians and civil servants, all with their own objectives and demands!

Negotiating is hard. There are hundreds of variables and you need to be adaptable to the situation, who you’re dealing with and the current environment, whilst keeping your eyes on the prize and being sensitive to what you’re able to offer in conjunction to what your fellow negotiator needs. We recently undertook a report that revealed some key learnings that we should consider prior to Brexit and any other business deal.

Power is important, but doesnt guarantee success

Interestingly for the UK post-snap election, whilst feeling less powerful at the start of negotiations means that you are more likely to be unsuccessful, feeling more powerful doesnt necessarily guarantee success it depends on how the negotiator harnesses their power.

So, it’s essential that David Davis, and indeed any other negotiator, carefully considers their position and their strength from day one.

it’s easy to irritate your opponent, and this can lead to failure


Business Law & Compliance