In any relationship – whether around our farm business or personal lives – there can be moments of agreement. Then, there are moments of disagreement or even conflict. When we’re in agreement with another person – business partners, spouse, employees, lenders, vendors or suppliers – it can almost make the relationship seem problem-free.
But when we find we’re in a disagreement or that we want different things than the other person, suddenly it all can seem impossible. Knowing how to create a win-win situation for both parties is a valuable skill for farm leaders who want positive long-term business relationships.
Nobody wants to lose
First, being able to negotiate a win-win requires us to take the mindset that the situation doesn’t need to end with a “winner” and “loser.” Let’s face it: nobody enjoys losing – whether in a pick-up baseball game or in talking cash rent with a landlord. If someone feels they’ve been made to “lose," often the goodwill in the business relationship can go out the window.
Here are three ways to work toward solutions with a win for both parties.
1. Know you’re on the same side.
Negotiating a successful win-win starts by recognizing that you’re both on the same “side.” Hopefully, you both want to have a respectful ongoing relationship that’s mutually beneficial.
Because you have the goal of working together in the long run, you wouldn’t try to “down” the other person or force them into agreeing to something contrary to their interests. Being on the same side as the other person when negotiating means stepping into their shoes. Take some time beforehand to think about what you would want and need, if you were them.
2. Proactively protect the other’s interests.
Show the person you’re negotiating with that you’re aware of and looking out for their interests as well. This is something you’re probably already doing if you have landlords: proactively taking care of their land as if it were your own – and regularly communicating those efforts to them as well.
You can do this in other relationships where you’re working to create win-win situations. Start by asking yourself: What is my end goal for this relationship? Is it to continue working together for as long as possible? What are the goals of the person I’m negotiating with? What are their main interests in this particular scenario? What do they really want (might not be what it initially appears to be)?
3. Take your time talking it through.
Working through both parties’ interests often means spending more time upfront to think about creative solutions to the problem. Often, the first solution that comes to mind might not necessarily be the best one for both parties.
Doing this involves sitting down together to discuss the current situation in a calm, rational way. Sometimes that’s easier said than done – but it needs to be the goal! Then, start working together to come up with creative solutions that foster a true win-win for both people.
Our advisors help farm leaders with the challenges they face in growing and developing their operations, including dealing with business relationships. You can talk more about how to incorporate win-win negotiations into relationships around your farm business by talking with our advisors for the farm.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.