Thursday, May 13, 2010

Negotiating Via Docs vs Over Coffee

A friend of mine is square in the middle of a financing.  His company is raising money and a prospective new investor is looking to join an existing syndicate.

Today, he called to update me on the process and to run some key issues and terms passed me.  In listening to the process to date, one key issue stood out.  The current and future board members had yet to talk, either by phone or, better yet, in person.  The negotiation, moreover, is taking place via redline markups sent over email.

In our email culture, it is increasingly common to see vast amounts of communication take place electronically - emails, texts, IMs....In many cases, electronic communication is a huge productivity boost and an enabler of commerce and progress.

In getting to a good deal, however, I find it can be problematic.  Rather than send email - which is a terrible medium for conveying intent, logic, context, tone - I highly recommend talking in person.  The social connections built from human contact and dialogue provide the context, trust, body language, tone, and other important "social greases" that foster understanding, collaboration, and common ground.

In summary, important business relations benefit hugely from in-person interaction. Second, deals feel "better" when the key issues are reviewed over coffee rather than over a redlined document delivered by an email server.