Or is it?

Learning to think differently is a key to getting more out of life.  There are many concepts we tend to accept because they seem ‘logical’ on the surface.  Yet, when you dig a little deeper, you find there’s more to the story than you grasped with a glance.

The concept of win/win is a perfect example.  On the surface, it’s a concept that seems hard to get your arms around.  In real life, doesn’t someone have to lose for someone to win?  The problem with this is that win/lose is a short-term solution.  Let’s take a business arrangement for starters.

A customer negotiates the purchase price of a supplier’s product down to a point where there is little or no profit.  The supplier company might accept this deal because it needs cash flow in the immediate future.  The customer firm thinks it really got a good deal because it saved some money, and that has immediate impact.

But look two months into the future.  The supplier can’t meet its cash flow demands because it had to pay the costs for fulfilling the contract.  When the supplier is no longer in the channel, the customer company is forced to go into the marketplace and build a new relationship.  It will ultimately have to pay a fair price for the product and will have to suffer the time-consuming process of educating a new supplier on its way of doing business.

That’s why, if I have a problem with a company that’s providing services to me, I feel that I owe it to them, as a fellow business owner, to talk to them about it before I make a decision to terminate the relationship.  I would want the same courtesy from a customer of mine.  Wouldn’t you?  It’s much easier to fix an existing relationship than to start a new one.  And it makes for a stronger relationship where both sides win.

Competition is really stiff in today’s business world.  When a company chooses to do business with you, it’s important to understand that they have given you an opportunity and you should be grateful for it.  The goal is to provide value beyond the services or products the customer expects.

I am a CPA. I owned and managed a mid-sized firm. Our services, for example, were expensive but worth it.  If a client wanted us to cut our fees or services, we would rather part company than compromise our standards.  Over the years, we had many clients that left and came back.  They were happy to pay us whatever it took to straighten out the mess the new accountant had made.  In many cases, that was five times what they would have paid if they had stayed with us all along.  While they eventually returned, knowing they would receive true value for their expense, trying to ‘win’ in the short-term cost them a lot in the long-run.

You can probably see how these business examples apply to all types of relationships.  While you might be able to focus on winning at all costs in the near term, everyone is a loser eventually.  On the other hand, if you give more than is expected, you see returns that are amazing.  In our business scenario, for example, the buyer gets something of value for a price that the seller feels is fair for the services or products they are selling.

There is give and take in every relationship.  In a win/win situation, both parties get as much as they give.  I pay a fair price, and you get a fair profit.  I give a certain amount of time, and you compensate me appropriately.  You know you’ve created a win/win because it feels good.  You can celebrate together because everyone has something to be thankful for.

Even in a sporting event, you can see win/win at work.  While ultimately one team wins and the other loses, they both have an opportunity to play.  The experience of just being in the game can be enough of a win to keep you coming back for more.

At first, the concept of win/win (especially in business situations) might be a little foreign.  In our highly competitive world, people are programmed to beat out the competition at all costs.  But if your words and actions are consistent with creating win/win, it will eventually sink in to the people you’re dealing with.  And once you achieve win/win, you both realize how great it feels to make a deal with someone and know that both parties are celebrating.

While I’m a Type A personality (ambitious, with lots of things going at one time), I’ve never been competitive.  Win/lose isn’t fun for me.  I’ve learned that if you keep working on a problem, you can usually come up with a solution that is win/win.

In any negotiation, I go into it knowing where I want to end up.  If getting there turns out to be a losing proposition for either party, I am willing to walk away.  I know that win/lose doesn’t feel good and that, even if I’m on the winning side, the benefits are short-lived.  I have to accept that the only one I can make happy is myself.  You have a responsibility to take care of yourself and be honest in your communication.  At the end of the day, all parties will know themselves a little bit better and have a stronger relationship.

Focusing on creating a win for everyone is actually much easier than the alternative.  You don’t have to grind through heavy negotiations because everyone is on the same page.  Together, you create something that works for everyone.

Dr. Gala

Dr. Gala Gorman is a CPA and entrepreneur…consultant, mediator, broker, publisher. As a change facilitator, she ignites transformation in businesses, families, students, clients and, especially, within herself. When asked why she enjoys helping people resolve conflict through mediation, Gorman says, “Helping business owners find a resolution that the parties consider a win/win/win creates lasting value. It's the silver lining!”