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Keep 'Em Coming

A deal that goes smoothly just might lead to future opportunities. Here's how to pave the way.

This story appears in the May 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Notwithstanding all the horror stories we lawyers hear aboutdeals gone south, many deals are just fine and often lead to more.Astute negotiators are always looking to the next deal, andthey'll try hard to lock in future opportunities and extendpromising relationships. Here are some common techniques theyuse:

  • A right, or option, to extend a deal for additional time onthe same, or adjusted, terms: This technique is verystraightforward. Think ahead. If you know you're going to needmore time, ask for it for upfront. The legendary Sam Walton,founder of Wal-Mart, once said his biggest mistake in business wasnot asking for the right to extend the underlying lease on hisfirst store. Despite his success, when the lease was up, he had tomove and start all over again.
  • A right of first negotiation: For a set time, it givesone side the exclusive right to be the first to talk turkey withthe other. Although it may seem like a token concession and/or aninconvenience depending on which side you're on, it may be keyin certain situations, especially at the beginning of anegotiation. For example, by insisting on a right of firstnegotiation from the get-go, Edgar Bronfman Jr. prevented a biddingwar when he acquired MCA some years ago. For this, he was praisedby the business press.

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