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From Post-exam parties to big business – the negotiation process

When we think about variables like volume, quality, delivery, and cost – some big business deal instantly springs to mind. However, this isn’t always the case. These variables are generic, they can apply to all sorts of potential negotiations – personal, domestic, internal, or external (or even with yourself).


For me this week, these variables could be applied to my daughter’s post-GCSE exams party (sixteen years have just gone like zip). My other half had conveniently arranged a business trip to Cardiff on the day of the party, which left me at the centre of operations, or the eye of the storm.


Firstly, on purpose, I asked that we discuss volume – not the number of units, but the number of friends attending. This agreed number is important as it impacts other variables – and could change my view on what’s reasonable for those other issues. Underestimating the number of guests could be a heavy burden on our house, the dog, and the shopping bill, overestimating could mean we’d be eating Margherita pizza for the whole of next week. I was thinking between 8 and 10, I suggested 8, and she agreed (yippee, the power of a proposal). Specificity is important here, without it, you can be left exposed – like the business dinner with a request for champagne at the top table that is assumed to be 8 but is actually 48!


Next quality – not defects, returns or SLA ratings but the state of the house after the party. This is tricky to measure (specificity again) and I know getting the house clean on the same day is unrealistic. I proposed that subject to the 8 agreed guests, ‘some’ tidying should be done that night with the rest the following day. This was subject to Dad’s post-party audit, with anything sub-standard being put right the next day. (Depending on how things go, I can turn up/down the dial on the audit!)


Delivery relates not to a product or service but to the duration of the party. I appreciate that she needs a reasonable amount of time, but this shouldn’t impact dinner time for the rest of the family. 2 pm to 7 pm was agreed upon (there is a bit of flex here) with a later requested upgrade for one person arriving at 1.30 pm – agreed subject to Crudité preparation (5 minutes) and the fact that I wouldn’t be shutting myself away with the dog still until 2 pm.

My daughter does have expensive tastes (I blame her mother 😀) - so I’m always a little concerned about cost. Given that I knew the other agreed variables now (especially volume), I had an idea of what would be reasonable for the food bill – in my head between £40 to £60. With some repackaging of hot dogs to a volume purchase of pigs in blankets we came in at £42.60, although rather than agreeing immediately, I asked her to let me think about it first.  


Now I know my daughter, and a bit like some client negotiations, she’s very adept at making changes that cost either additional time or money at the last minute, whilst expecting the other agreed parameters of the deal to remain the same – we call this phenomenon, deal creep.  So, I now go for the close ‘If you say yes to me writing a blog about this (low-cost give for her) and there are no further changes, then I'll agree’. You’ll be pleased to know that everything went without a hitch – so it was a win/win deal.


As for the prom dress, I passed that discussion on to her mother – I’m comfortable with my limitations!


Sam Macbeth, 20th June 2024

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