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Karmic Business

Dealmakers get what they give.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the May 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In the 1920s and '30s, my grandfather was a successful small-town merchant in Poland. When times were hard, many who frequented his general store fell into debt. Grandpa never sued and often extended credit to (or bartered with) these customers. He didn't have to do this; in many ways, it made no sense.

In the early 1940s, the Germans occupied his hometown. My grandfather was Jewish. It was then that these customers remembered his kindness-by hiding, feeding and saving my grandfather and his family from extermination.

Perhaps it's a dramatic example, but it's why I believe in the law of business karma-what goes around, comes around. To those who say, "in the long run, there is no long run": your shortsightedness will cost you.

It's a rare deal in which two sides will never meet again--business circles can be small. Think twice before you "take no prisoners." You never know when you'll need something from the opponent you're about to fleece or humiliate.

A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, marc Diener is the author of Deal Power: 6 Foolproof Steps to Making Deals of Any Size (Owl Books/Henry Holt). You can reach him at

Mind Your Manners

You don't have to be gruff or combative to get your way in business. Sure, it works for some, but I'd take rational discussion over posturing any day.

It's been said that listening is the least expensive concession you can make. Don't interrupt. Concentrate. Empathize. "Seek first to understand, then to be understood," says author Stephen Covey. Ask questions that begin with "why." I'm amazed at how easy it can be to make a deal, once you find out what the other side wants. The reverse also holds. Your opponents are more likely to work with you if the reasons for your demands are clearly articulated.

When you do cut a great deal, don't rub the other side's nose in it, or brag so loudly that it gets back to them. Let them save face. If they need one, give them an excuse. Talk about how things have changed. Or point to some third-party standard of fairness. First-class negotiators get what they want and leave the other side feeling like a winner.

After you shake on it, you still want the other side to consider you someone they'd like to work with again. A challenging opponent of mine brought this point home at the end of a particularly torturous negotiation. When it was over, he stuck out his hand, smiled and said, "Closing is a beautiful thing." At first, I was stunned, but I had to admit he was right. Did this one remark make us best friends? Of course not. But it did clear the air, should we meet again.

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