I once attended a City Council meeting. It wasn’t just any council meeting, though. This was the first reading for our petition to allow the “sale of alcoholic beverages on and off-premises” at the brewery. We presented the petition. There were speakers present to support us, and we had letters of support from the community.
We also have the support of our neighborhood. They requested we consider one item, which was to modify our hours of operation. In our petition, we had requested Monday–Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., and Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 am. The neighborhood asked us to modify our hours, opening at 11:00 a.m. and closing at 1:00 a.m. When the councilwoman asked our attorney whether we could accept this concession, he looked at me for approval. Without hesitation, I nodded my head, confirming that this was an acceptable request. Sure, we will make that concession. We will restrict our hours—hours of operation, hours to make money.
In reality, we didn’t concede anything.
The hours of operation we were petitioning for are the maximum hours allowable by law. Our neighborhood association and business guild don’t want this to be a stumbling place for late-night drinking and potential problems. The restrictions they requested are the same ones they’ve placed on all the other businesses in the area.
Although we had petitioned for the maximum, we never intended for those to be our operating hours. So, we conceded, complying with the neighborhood’s request. They get what they want—shorter hours of operation—and we get what we want: perceived concession.
I thought back to every time in my career when I had proposed a new project, a change in policy, or a new hire. I thought about what I was trying to accomplish. I thought about the audiences who had to approve my proposals and recommendations. And I thought about all the times when I never presented exactly what I wanted. I pitched the best-case, pie-in-the-sky wish list. The best preparation you can have is to anticipate the counterargument. Anticipate what the other guy wants and be ready to concede before you walk into the room.
Know what the other side is going to say. Then aim high, and when the time comes to concede, let them have what they want. Let them believe they negotiated hard. And after the deal is done, walk out knowing you, too, got exactly what you wanted.
Better yet, be ready to compromise. Because true success lies in compromise.