Corporate Angels

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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the October 2, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

How to Become An Expert Negotiator

The year was 1992. There was no E-mail. The Internet

existed, but browsers, which make surfing possible for non-techies,

did not. And, though it is now unimaginable, most business was conducted

without benefit of voice mail.

It was in this primitive era that Terry Adams negotiated her

way into a telecommuting position, before the term "telecommute"

had entered the vernacular. Working in management and leadership development

for Merrill Lynch from a New Jersey office, Adams was about to move

to Aiken, South Carolina, where her husband, Dave Tuck, an environmental

scientist, had just accepted a job.

Using the first principle of negotiating, she plowed ahead under the

assumption that she had nothing to lose. If her managers said no,

she would lose a job she loved. If she didn’t ask for a telecommuting

arrangement, she would lose the job she loved. Negotiating, as is

often the case, was her only hope of getting what she wanted.

Adams needed to persuade no fewer than three levels of management

that the company would benefit from her off-site work. She prepared

diligently, putting in hours of library research, calling human resource

departments at other companies, and putting together a detailed cost/benefit


She asked the company to try the arrangement for three months, telling

them what she had told herself — they had nothing to lose. If

she had to resign, they would lose a dedicated, enthusiastic, effective

employee. If the telecommuting arrangement didn’t work, their loss

would be the same. Her expertise would stay with the company only

if she remained an effective contributor while working from her new

home in southern South Carolina.

Adams won, and spent the next six years as a telecommuter. On Thursday,

October 10, at 6 p.m. she speaks to the Central Jersey Women’s Network

at the Tinton Falls Holiday Inn on "You Can Negotiate Anything!"

Cost: $38. Call 908-281-9234. She also speaks on communications skills

at Princeton YWCA workshops on Wednesday, October 23, and Wednesday,

October 30, at 7:30 p.m. Call 609-497-2100.

Adams is not with Merrill Lynch anymore. Rather she is on her fourth

career. In mid-April, she founded the Adams Consulting Group, a home-based,

Princeton business specializing in team and group development (609-430-9971,

A Philadelphia native and Temple graduate, Adams began her professional

life as an accountant, a profession she quickly found to be a poor

match for her outgoing personality. She decided she wanted to get

into the restaurant business and, despite a total lack of experience,

negotiated her way in.

An upscale restaurant in Philadelphia agreed to take her on, provided

that she didn’t expect to start right out in management. She happily

agreed to do whatever needed to be done in exchange for learning the

business. After a stint there, she was recruited to manage a new restaurant,

Morgan’s Bistro, on the Main Line.

"It’s a vibrant world," she says of restaurants. "You

really feel alive." Working in a restaurant is your whole life,

she says, your work and your social group. "At the time, it was

great," she recalls. "But what made me not want to start my

own restaurant was the realization that if I wanted a family, I had

better start living a normal lifestyle."

Already enrolled in graduate school, Adams decided to focus on group

development, the field she found "the best part of the restaurant

business." Upon graduating, she landed a job with Scanticon (now

the Doral Forrestal), where she established a training department.

After a few years at Scanticon, and looking for a position with a

higher-profile company, she went to work for Merrill Lynch.

When she and her husband decided to move back from South Carolina

to Princeton, where he established Naplogic, an environmental consulting

business specializing in ground water contamination, she returned

to Merrill Lynch’s Plainsboro offices. The parents of two children,

a six-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter, each runs a business

out of their home.

Sharing household duties and child care, and having

offices so close together means negotiation skills are a part of Adams’s

daily life. She finds that many people think of negotiation only in

terms of asking for a raise or getting a car dealer to knock a couple

of thousand dollars off the price of an SUV. But, in fact, she says,

everyone negotiates every day. Here is how to do so effectively:

Recognize existing skills. "Where do you negotiate

already?" Adams asks. "How do you do it?" Think about

it. Decisions on where to vacation, who will drive to the concert,

and where the office will celebrate the boss’s birthday all involve

negotiation. How do you achieve a satisfying result in those negotiations?

If you generally are satisfied with the outcome of negotiations such

as these, chances are you are a good negotiator. In higher stakes

situations "the same skills apply," says Adams.

Look at the overlap. What is your goal? is an important

question. What is the other person’s goal? is an equally important

question. "I can’t stomp you out," says Adams. "It has

to be a win/win." Each party wants something. Finding the area

where those wants overlap is the trick.

Ask questions, and listen to the answers. When Adams is

negotiating with her husband over, say, who will pick the kids up

on Thursday afternoon, she knows his position. She is largely aware

of his schedule and his deadlines. She knows which child care chores

he most enjoys — or doesn’t. "But when I am negotiating with

someone else," she says, "I need to absorb as much as I can."

She asks lots of questions to determine what the person on the other

side of a negotiation wants. "It’s like peeling an onion,"

she says. "Getting to the heart of what the other person wants."

In addition to yielding useful information, posing questions helps

to keep emotions in check, she observes.

Look at all the options. In the course of her negotiation

for her job at Scanticon, Adams realized she was not going to get

the salary she wanted. So, she stepped back, thinking "what else

do I want?" She soon realized that more vacation and more flexibility

in the hours she worked were just as important to her as money.

Many companies, she says, have little trouble granting an extra week

off or allowing an employee to set his own hours, and these perks

can be worth more than their weight in paychecks.

In the end, Adams came away from her negotiations with Scanticon happy,

and the company was happy too. She says the employment terms she negotiated

allowed her to start work with enthusiasm, rather than a lingering

sense that she was not being paid what she was worth — a clear

win for both sides.

Preserve the relationship. Always remember that each negotiation

is just a part of an ongoing relationship, unless, Adams comments,

it’s over the purchase of an automobile. For while many people haggle

with any given used car salesman only once, nearly everyone has to

work with a boss, share a home with teen-age children, and visit in-laws

on a much more constant basis.

"Always think about the relationship," Adams advises. If initial

negotiations go well, "future negotiations will be easier and


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Corporate Angels

ShopRite and Yoplait yogurt have launched the ShopRite

Salutes New Jersey Survivors program, through which ShopRite and Yoplait

will donate $10,000 toward breast cancer research. The New Jersey

Survivors program is integrated with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer

Foundation New Jersey Race for the Cure on Saturday, October 20.

Roberta Obler, a local breast cancer survivor, is spokesperson for

the program.

Sovereign Bank is taking part in the annual March of Dimes

Pick a Pumpkin promotion. Sovereign is selling paper pumpkins in its

branches throughout the Mercer County area. Customers may purchase

these pumpkins for $1 to $5 each.

Sovereign’s branches also are distributing March of Dimes pamphlets

to educate women of childbearing age about the importance of managing

stress in their lives, particularly during pregnancy, and recognizing

the signs of preterm labor.

Funds raised through Pick a Pumpkin support research and programs

to lower the incidence of low birth weight babies, increase access

to prenatal care, and prevent teen pregnancy. Other businesses interested

in participating in the program can call 609-655-7400 for more information.

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