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Pick Your Battles

Are you really outgunned, or are you just being outmaneuvered? find out how to tell the difference.

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This story appears in the November 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

I take strong issue with negotiating gurus who declare that everything is negotiable. That just ain't so. Perhaps there is more room to bargain than we sometimes imagine. But when you're the little guy, expect your opponents to protect their time and position by steamrolling you.

According to ancient Chinese military genius Sun Tzu, "He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious." As always, put yourself in the other side's shoes. Businesses often establish uniform policies to help them run smoothly and economically-policies that, for good reason, are set in stone. A large company isn't likely to retool its accounting system, product line or management structure on demand. To do otherwise invites confusion in the ranks, mistakes and potential liability. This rationale we can accept.

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