Everything is Negotiable in Business

Negotiating Terms

Read the Fine Print  and Negotiate.

In business, there is never a shortage of things to negotiate. The key thing to remember is that  EVERYTING is negotiable. This includes:

  • Pricing;
  • Contract terms;
  • Liability clauses;
  • Start dates;
  • Delivery dates;
  • Termination clauses;
  • Etc.

When a vendor asks you to sign their agreement they are starting with the upper hand. The person who supplies the agreement has initial control of the negotiation after all,  the terms and conditions of the agreement have been written with their best interests in mind.

As a business executive, you need to carefully read through any such agreement with your best interests in mind. Frequently, there will be differences in expectations. It is your responsibility as the person planning to sign the agreement to ensure you are comfortable with and fully understand all of the terms and conditions. If not, you need to take steps to understand the agreement and then negotiate the terms and conditions.

Let me ask you a question: If you were going to buy a new car would you consider walking into a dealer, finding the car you liked, and offer to buy it for the MSRP or initial asking price? No way. Well this is exactly what you are doing if you just sign an agreement without  reading through it, understanding it, and pushing back where necessary.

Don’t be swayed by a  sales rep’s response of, “It’s standard industry practice.”  Sometimes standard industry practices are just plain crazy and if you don’t challenge them then by default, you are accepting them.

If you don’t take the time to read and negotiate you may find that:

  • You’ve locked yourself into a 5 year agreement that can’t be changed even if your business needs change;
  • You’ve agreed to unlimited price increases as the vendor sees fit;
  • You’ve agreed to never hire a staffing agency employee directly without paying a substantial fee;
  • You can’t sell certain products/services that compete with a nearby tenant.
  • Your profitability is affected.

The above are just a few select examples of potential ramifications.  There are countless more.

Now whether a vendor wants to negotiate with you or not is up to them but whether you want to accept the deal or not is up to you.  As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.  When it comes to negotiation though, the question is, “Do you want to lead?”

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Graham Acreman
President, Stellacon Solutions
graham.acreman@stellacon.com

How to Mitigate the Effect of Ontario’s Proposed Minimum Wage Increase

In my last post we discussed the tentative 32% increase in Ontario’s minimum wage. We also reviewed the critical importance of why you need to perform an “Impact Assessment” to understand how it will affect your business. READ HERE.

Protecting your profitability

Today we’re going to discuss ways of mitigating the impact. Let’s use a simple example based on the following:

Current annual revenue = $1,800,000

Current annual labour cost = $950,000

Your maximum risk = $304,000 (32% x $950,000)

This would be based on all of your labour cost being at the current minimum wage of $11.40.

Your minimum risk = $0.00 (0% x $950,000)

This would be based on having no staff today below $15.00. If this is the case, congratulations. You’ve ducked a bullet.

In all likelihood you will fall somewhere in between. For illustration sake let’s assume that you’ve calculated your increased cost to be $165,000.

Assuming your revenues stay flat and no other costs increase, you now have to determine what to do about the extra $165,000 in costs.

When it comes down to it, you’ve really got five options:

  1. Suck it up.
  2. Increase your prices.
  3. Reduce head count.
  4. Reduce other expenses.
  5. A combination of the above.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these options.

Check out your business

Option 1: Sucking it up is a pretty big pill to swallow.  The reality is – this is the default option. Most of the business owners who will suck it up will be those who didn’t take the time to assess the impact and deal with it proactively.

Option 2: Increasing your prices is a likely option for many business owners.  In the case above, with revenues of $1,800,000, a business would need to increase prices 9.2% to negate the cost of the increase. This increase does not impact profitability in any way – it simply maintains it based on the increased labour expense.

Option 3:  Frequently, owners have one or more employees that they know they should let go but for a number of reasons they’ve been hesitant to do so.  Now may be the time to act.  If you’re already running a tight ship then this is likely not an option.

Option 4:  There are a few ways of reducing costs.  Labour expenses can often be reduced by automation.  Now may the time to investigate and invest.   A regular expense review is also definitely on my list of best practices and there’s no better time than now.  Many times business owners find they are paying for items that no longer make sense. There was likely a good reason at one time for any expense but as businesses evolve, some things become redundant or just aren’t used anymore.  And for those expense items that you still need, this may be the best time to negotiate lower prices from your suppliers.

Option 5: The most likely option in my opinion is that most pro-active business owners will offset the increase in costs through a combination of the above.

The truth is, the proposed increase in Ontario’s minimum wage is beyond your direct control. How your business deals with it is up to you.

If you need assistance with assessing the impact or strategizing a solution we would be happy to assist.

We help business owners solve problems.

For more information contact:
Graham Acreman, President | Stellacon Solutions
(613) 263-1010
Email: info@stellaconsolutions.com
Web: stellaconsolutions.com

Business Detective – Case of the Declining Profits

Peter, the owner and President of a local moving company, had an issue. New sales were steady and customer retention was good but the company’s bottom line was slowly declining. Month after month. Everyone in the company appeared to be working hard. The team was focused on looking after their customers. So why were profits in decline?

 Discussions with Peter revealed that he had been running his business for twenty years. He had many interests outside the company and had been attempting to step away from day-to-day involvement with the business. Ultimately, we wanted his management team to run the  business.   To this end, six months ago he had promoted Fred into the role of Operations Manager. Fred was Peter’s best driver and a model employee. Peter figured  that if everyone could be like Fred then the company would do well.

In meeting Fred, it was apparent that he cared about the company. His stated focus was on looking after his customers and making sure everyone was happy. While these were noble goals, they were only part of his overall responsibility. The reality was that operations were loose. Specifically, labour force costs were not being well managed. The real issue? Fred was unaware of the impact that he could have on the company’s financial performance.

This wasn’t Fred’s fault though – he was focusing on what he knew and what was important to him. He had never been trained on why it was necessary to keep tight controls on his labour costs and more importantly, how to do so.

This scenario is not unique and happens every day. Regretfully, it can kill a company quickly if it’s not identified and fixed. Fortunately, the missing skills in this case are all teachable skills. Proper coaching together with regular, structured follow up was ultimately the successful solution for Fred and Peter.

Need help with your business? Want to increase performance & your bottom line?  Contact us today:
Email: info@stellaconsolutions.com
Web: www.stellaconsolutions.com
Tel: (613) 263-1010