Stories and Examples as Tools
Sometimes the most difficult decisions are really quiet simple when analyzed from the right perspective. It is in that regard that I think stories and examples are useful, as they can frame a situation in a comical, but revealing manner.
At one point during a pre-negotiation process for the sale of a company that one of my mentors was involved in (lets call him SK), the acquiring company was pushing hard for an all access pass to the financials of the company. As it was very early in the game and this company was a potential competitor if the deal did not go through, it was clearly a problematic situation for SK.
SK thought hard and long about the dilemma before him. On the one hand he was certain that the acquirer was a perfect match and he knew that if they saw his financials the deal would fall into place, in addition, he did not want to do anything or deny them anything that would upset them and perhaps derail the entire deal. On the other hand, he knew that allowing anyone to see your financials that early in the game is a suicide play, and he was in no mood to give the upper hand to the other side of the table.
At the next meeting between the two sides he used a story to illustrate and make clear that he could not show his financials this early on.
The story he told went as follows: A few decades ago when arranged marriages where more common a young woman was of age to get married. Her father looked high and wide for the perfect match until he found what seemed like the fantastic boy. He was smart, kind, eloquent, good looking, and wealthy. At once the father was convinced that this was the boy for his daughter. The father of the girl approached the young man and offered his daughters hand in marriage. The boy was delighted and agreed pending one condition; he wanted to see the girl naked first to make sure he knew exactly what he was getting, and to make sure there were no surprises later. The father was shocked and certainly disagreed. However the boy insisted and to reassure the father of his good intentions offered that the father be in the room and even promised to keep a distance of 20 feet from his potential future wife.
The father consented, but only because he was sure that this boy was sincere and was the perfect match for the daughter. The day came and the father and daughter met in a room with the young man. The potential groom stood 20 feet away from the girl and her father. The girl undressed and the boy, always a gentleman, took a quick look and turned away.
The father came over to the boy and asked him if now that he had seen his daughter fully he was satisfied with the girl and was willing to marry her, to which the boy replied “Thank you, but I will have to pass, as I do not really like her nose.”
The company understood that SK could not put himself in a position of such weakness. They saw where he was coming from and realized it was an unfair demand. They continued the negotiations and things worked out very nicely.
Next time you find yourself in a tough bind, try to simplify the problem to its root and usually it will be clear what you can and should do.
Entry filed under: Start-up.