Entrepreneurs are forced on a daily basis to compromise in order get what they need, particularly in the start-up phases because there is a lack of resources that can include money, time, products or people. It is primarily the lack of access to these resources that forces them to make deals or compromise what they originally wanted in order to get what they need. We label this scrappy, or settling, and in many cases it leads to a negative outcome or capitulation.
Compromise means making the best with what you have and creating an outcome that gives you what you need. This is a win because it lets you live to fight another day, move along the road towards success and at the end, you are still standing. The key to successful compromise in my mind is to search for truths and be slow to understand the other person’s perspective. A very skilled negotiator once told me that first and foremost, always search for the “real” thing the other party is looking for, not necessarily the stated one. There is almost always something else that is more important, and the person may not even realize it themselves, so they continue to turn away good offers because the “real” goal, has been unstated and unaddressed.
A successful compromise leaves both parties feeling good, not one feeling like they’ve been run over – that’s a win-lose. Compromise means each side gives a little. A common trap for entrepreneurs is they feel they have to give more because they are in the weaker position, however, this is usually a false assumption. Both parties want something, otherwise they would not be at the table.
What You Must Never Compromise
The one thing that cannot be emphasized enough is that your values are the one thing you must never compromise. If you compromise your values, you are left feeling like you let your soul down as if you gave in to the dark side. You, not the company, or anyone else can guard what is most important to you – your values – you are the only advocate you have for these. Remember that when someone tries to corner you into doing something that at a gut level you feel is a compromise of your values, back away. The person is likely a bully and/or a narcissist out for themselves and it’s a win for them and a loss for you. It’s not a compromise, it’s a capitulation. And once you cross that line, you’ve now established a new one which is much further away from your core.
Next time you face a situation where you feel you need to compromise, ask yourself these key questions:
- What is the other side really after? What is really important to them?
- What am I willing to take that does not compromise my value set but allows me to move my dream forward?
- What’s a way we haven’t looked at yet that might achieve goals for both sides?
- What’s your “walk away point?”
Remember that good negotiation is not personal, you’re trying to get something you want as is the other side. Somewhere there is an intersection that will allow both parties to get what they need. However, without objectively looking for the intersection, you’ll be left defending your side and likely end up negotiating against yourself.