Needful Things

Know Thyself

Superior dealmakers know exactly what they want and why. Start every deal with a little soul-searching. Ask yourself: "Why am I doing this?" And don't assume you know the answer. If you're honest, you may be surprised. Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized a hierarchy of human needs starting with the basics like air, water and food; through sex, safety, love and belonging; to the higher ones like truth, justice, beauty and self-sufficiency. Let's adapt this idea to dealmaking.

Money is a universal need. Deal terms such as time, service or any kind of tangible or intangible property usually convert to plain dollars and cents. That much is obvious. But not all business needs are based on money. For example, a successful venture capitalist may harvest his company because he wants to spend more time with his family. An executive may quit the company that slighted her to launch a competing one. A retiring owner may not tolerate being put out to pasture and prefer to stay on as a part-time consultant.

Satisfying your emotional and psychological needs can be even more important than satisfying your financial ones. By being candid with yourself, you may uncover your real motives, crystalize your goals and push forward vigorously. Or you may reject a deal and find simpler ways to satisfy your true needs. After all, there's no point wasting time and energy on a deal that can never give you what you really want.

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Needful Things.

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