Running a business in the equestrian industry involves drawing up contracts related to training, boarding, leasing, sales, and a host of other issues.
Mastering the art of negotiation can help you handle all these aspects more effectively. Here are some tips to help you succeed.
Start on the right foot
Training programs offered by renowned trainers such as The Negotiation Experts and Harvard P.O.N say that human relations play a big part in negotiating contracts. This helps far more than simply ensuring that discussions start on a cordial note.
Creating a conducive environment for collaboration helps to thaw tensions and warm the other side up so they may be more open to hearing you out when you ask for some accommodations.
You can start the discussion with small talk about anything from the latest horse races to the weather to establish common interests and build rapport.
However, it’s essential to evaluate the context of the discussion because some people may get irritated by the chit-chat. Take your cues from the other person’s demeanor. For instance, if they immediately show you to the chair and jump right into the substance of the discussion, it signals you to follow suit.
It’s also important to research more about the other side before you start the negotiations to determine which subjects may be off-limits.
To ensure that the discussions flow smoothly, it helps to discuss the agenda before launching into the actual negotiation. It’s best not to assume that you’re both on the same page about the finer details. If you’re uncertain, you may want to consult with a professional negotiation coach or even sign up for a real deal coaching program for further guidance.
Some areas to set straight include:
- where you’re going to meet;
- who is going to be present;
- which areas you will focus on during the discussions. For instance, if you are negotiating a horse lease you can include issues like boarding, feed, and training in the agenda.
Talking about all the procedural issues beforehand will help clear the way for a more focused conversation.
Practice active listening
Through active listening, you can gain a deeper understanding of the reasoning that drives the other person’s stance, which can enable you to find agreeable alternatives.
Once you start discussing the substance, give an attentive ear when the other side is talking, and, where possible, paraphrase what they say to ensure you’re catching everything. It also helps to mirror some gestures, for example leaning in when they do the same.
Also, keep an eye out for the other person’s non-verbal cues so you can pick up the feelings and intent behind the message.
For instance, if the owner of a horse boarding facility hints at the cost of feed being the biggest cost driver, you may suggest providing your own hay to lower boarding costs.
In addition, by actively listening to the other side’s propositions, you set the tone for a respectful negotiation which can help reach a win-win agreement.
You can gain a lot more insights by asking the right questions to get helpful answers. Ask questions that encourage the other person to get into details such as:
- Can you tell me about the challenges you face with horse boarding?
- How agreeable are you to reducing the boarding fee in lieu of services rendered?
By digging deeper, you can provide the opportunity for both sides to see the other’s perspective and come closer to a zone where everyone can come away with a favorable outcome.
Have everything in writing
To protect your value and the long-term durability of your contract, it helps to put all the details in black and white. In addition, set milestones and deadlines to ensure that everyone holds up their end of the deal.
It may also be necessary to include a clause detailing when you will meet throughout the duration of the contract to review the terms and renegotiate if necessary.
On top of that, consider consulting with experts to help you draw up the contracts. Add a dispute-resolution clause where you agree on mediation or arbitration in the event that your relations turn sour.
Also, consider adding contingencies to protect yourself from unscrupulous service providers. By applying a contingency, you preserve future value if the scenario does not play out as expected.
For example, if you are leaving your horse with a new trainer, you can propose a contingent contract where you can start with a lower price. You can then review the training cost to increase the price with a provision to top up on the previous month’s fees after you are satisfied with the treatment your horse has received.
If the trainers are worth their salt, they should have no problems accepting such terms since they know they will receive what’s due to them anyhow.
Overall, by maintaining cordial relations and practicing active listening you can have fruitful negotiations that bring success to your equine business. Remember to solidify all contracts in writing to prevent backtracking.