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If you laze, you pays!

Sometimes it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking our commercial conflicts are one-off and transactional. We go in with a set of objectives we need to achieve and use the skills we possess to achieve a deal as close to our desired outcome as possible. Going in headfirst, straight for the jugular, and Boom! Job done.

(Or so we think).

Past actions and behaviours can have consequences for our (sometimes unforeseen) future especially if we’ve become a bit lazy in our approach.

‘Big’ players especially need to be mindful. Take for example Meta, which has just announced it will cut 13% of its staff. Now, some of this is apparently due to unrealistic ‘growth expectations’ but some is because of increased competition. There was a time, not so long ago when advertisers would most likely have been falling over themselves to do deals with Facebook when competition was very limited. It’s very tempting when you’re holding all the cards like this, to get lazy. You might wonder for example how many ways you can think of to say ‘no’. These sorts of behaviours are often without consideration of the future implications of our actions. Of course, the thing about power is that it isn’t a constant – it will change over time. If we’re in these situations and behave appropriately, people will remember that (just as they will remember if we don’t). Maybe ‘doing a deal’ where the other side feels that they’ve gained something of value to them (which may not have cost us very much at all), could be a very real investment in the future. If formidable adversaries like Meta, had done deals like this when they had all the power, they may be able to leverage these relationships now, when arguably they may need it most.

If, however, they took the lazy option in the past, things may be about to get a bit tougher for them. I remember an example from my own career when I was subjected to a ‘lazy’ approach and felt the consequences. A former employer was riding high on a full order book, I received a warm business introduction to a potential client through a friend. As it was potentially a big deal, I thought it appropriate to take my boss with me. Right from the start of the meeting my boss launched into his ‘tactically audacious’ style – surmising with authority what he thought the problems were before offering up a Blue Peter proposition (here’s one I made earlier). The potential client listened politely to what we (he mostly) had to say, and the meeting then concluded.

A few days later I had a call from my friend telling me that the potential client had called him to say that he found my boss to be rude, arrogant and not pleasant to engage with, and that he wouldn’t be doing business with us. Despite trying to engage on a one to one with the would-be client at carefully judged intervals all I received was radio silence – the opportunity was lost.

This was an excellent reminder for me that lazy doesn’t pay-zy! Even when we have the power, we should still spend time trying to understand more about the challenges our counter party faces first (with the appropriate behaviour) rather than telling people what their problems are and then firing off our own ready-made solutions.

If there are areas of potential contention in what you might have to say, put in the legwork beforehand. Firstly, think about whether this issue should be raised at all. If the answer is yes, then think about how it should be introduced, and at what point in the conversation. A more considered approach should result in stronger relationships, with a more thoughtful and open-minded reception given to you when you’re the one wanting something from them, further down the line.

Sam Macbeth, 9th November 2022

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