As this reality of the long-term nature of the lockdown became apparent, there was shock. And there was also a deep sense of sympathy as every single person around the globe was affected.
As business owners, we naturally felt sympathy for those suppliers, customers and staff who were battling, and needed a bit of leeway.
Now the question is: Is it time to toughen up?
Pavlo’s view is that now is the time to move on from Mr Nice Guy to Mr Smart Guy. This is our new reality, and it’s going to be with us for a year, to two years. We need to normalise this in our approach to business, to the risks we take and to implementing actions in our business.
Sympathy can’t be driving all our actions. Now is the time to be empathetic. Listen to the podcast of his discussion on702 & CapeTalk about the difference:
We are seeing this across the global landscape. Take a look at the protests in Belarus, or the British government’s approach to breaching the Brexit deal. Around the world, the crises that are occurring see governments asking people to back off instead of asking the hard questions, blaming the apprehensions of Covid.
If we assume the new normal is going to last for two years, we need to get back to business. If a customer/supplier/employee comes to you asking for some relief, you need to consider it carefully.
What to consider when making empathetic decisions
If someone asks for a concession, you have to ask: Is it worth making that concession? It might be a staff member who needs to keep working from home, or a supplier who wants to be paid upfront. Is it worth the effort or sacrifice, or not?
Pavlo went back to his Onion Peeler method to ask what is core and critical to the survival of your business and what isn’t.Tthis will help guide you to whether it is worth it or not.
Ask 2 questions:
- What is the downside risk in making that concession? What if your accommodation is not returned? And what is the extent of the concession you can make? Maybe it is one extra month of working from home, or this is the last time you agree to pay upfront.
- What is the upside gain? Are you holding on to a customer whose growing business will grow yours, or is this a staff member who is committed, and important to the business in the future?
Sympathy is a kneejerk reaction, empathy requires that you educate the person as to why they need to agree to a concession.
It is not charitable, it’s a business transaction, where each party gains.
As part of the Corona Business Battle Plan, Pavlo hosted two webinars on negotiating with Landlords and SARS respectively https://www.aurik.com/corona He wrote template letters that went to pains to show empathy for the landlords and for the taxman. Both parties would have to concede something to the business owner, and the business owner needed to show that they understood their challenges, as well as how their short-term support will secure a long term gain for each.
Limit your risk
Most people in business have a fairly good sense of whether someone is being genuine and authentic or not. If you are feeling uncertain, look at the information being presented to you and ask questions. You will see if the thread of an argument holds or doesn’t hold.
Put conditions to the concessions. For example, allow the staff member to work from home but then set up daily check ins.
When working on negotiations which Pavlo has done extensively he always pushes and pushes for more information from each party. How the business functions, how the levers of growth and value work, why this concession will have a positive effect if granted. He insists on going into lots of detail. And often the person granting the concession will be so worn down he will grant it!