Whether you are an experienced businessman or woman or simply feel that you can “horse trade” as well as anyone, there is no substitute for a professional when you need one. For example, in business an executive might know quite a bit of business law or accounting, even if he or she is not a lawyer or a CPA. However, the chances are when they need expertise they will use professionals to handle problems and provide value for the company. A strong professional negotiator provides the same service. Whether he or she is directly negotiating on a client’s behalf or simply on a team as an advisor for an important transaction, the potential for making the final agreement better and closing the transaction will increase dramatically.

Like other professionals, negotiators cover a broad spectrum of specialties from business and personal negotiations to military, police and hostage recovery from terrorist actions. They all, however, provide their clients with some fundamental assets. These include focus on issues and objectives, ways to look at options and alternatives, methodologies to move agendas forward or in some cases cease negotiations altogether if appropriate and finally, to reach agreement. They are advocates, problem solvers and closers.

Paladin specializes in international negotiations for the energy industry between companies, governments and other interested parties such as military, ecological groups or local interests. We also negotiate damage claims between landowners or government entities and industry. Finally, Paladin teaches negotiations on its own or through Colorado State University to governmental, educational, business and private groups.

Many negotiators hold degrees in various disciplines such as business, law and technical areas. They also might have military or police training. At some point they find that negotiations are an area of expertise and move to develop these skills via training and experience. There are also some universities such as Colorado State or Harvard University Law School that have negotiations programs or courses. In addition, several individuals or companies such as Paladin teach courses in this field.

There is no doubt that a formal course in negotiations will improve your skills. Paladin’s course is based on Dan Reid’s 25 years of negotiations in business, international energy and the military as well as his scholastic endeavors which include the Harvard Program on Negotiations started by Professor Roger Fisher. (You may recall Professor Fisher’s books such as “Getting To Yes” and his history as a negotiator with Presidential administrations.)

You might do as well, but probably not if the negotiation is complicated or lengthy. There is no substitute for professional experience.

Yes. The principles of negotiations and business problem solving are largely universal. By using negotiations as a quantitative skill and a thought-out process, the ability to find solutions and agreement increases. This applies to any business situation. For example, we were asked to negotiate on behalf of a golf course in Texas that was being threatened by the local city government. The city wanted to annex the golf course to insure its ability to get rid of its treated waste water on the fairways and greens. We were able to negotiate a 500% increase over the city’s initial offer for our client and the city forgave all past due taxes and assessments.