Monthly Archives: August 2014

Case Study: Valuing resources to be able to negotiate correctly

This case was one of my favorites of all time. People who know me know that I LOVE cost accounting. Like, adore it. I think it explains everything. I had no idea that cost accounting even existed until I went to business school, and that first day in my first cost accounting class was like the sun coming out from behind a cloud. And this case was all about cost accounting.

The client is a lawyer in solo practice. She needed to negotiate terms and finances with someone she was considering a business relationship with. Since she’s a lawyer, negotiation is right in her wheelhouse, but she was stuck because she didn’t know how to determine the value of the things she was negotiating. So she didn’t even know her BATNA* let alone which outcome to negotiate toward. She thought there wasn’t a way to determine the value of some of the aspects of the relationship.

Now, I think that it’s possible to assign a financial value to almost everything, and it’s DEFINITELY possible to assign a financial value to everything involved in a business relationship. (I wouldn’t want to have to do the calculations, necessarily, but I know that it’s possible.) So I came up with a way to determine the value of every aspect of this relationship, and listed it for the client line by line, so she just had to fill in the numbers. (Note that I have no idea what those numbers are and our consulting relationship didn’t require that I know them to tell her how to calculate them.)

Then, once she had actual numbers, I told her several different ways she could use those numbers to determine bottom line values based on different possible scenarios for the relationship. Cost pools! So much fun. And I explained how I would look at which possible option to privilege based on risk and the likelihood that certain of the numbers going into the calculations would change or stay stable. We also talked a little bit about economies of scale and how the utilization rate is key so you can’t assume a linear change, so tracking that was important going ahead.

The client got back to me and was VERY happy, because now she was a professional negotiator going into a negotiation knowing exactly what everything was worth so she could make excellent decisions. Who doesn’t love that?

(I also have to say that she was my dream client because she’s really good at what she does, and her problem was simply something she didn’t have experience with, but when I explained how to do it she totally got it and loved the way it all fits together.)


* Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement. It’s what happens if you can’t make a deal in a negotiation. You have to know what your BATNA is before you start negotiating, so you know if you can walk away if you can’t make the deal you want. Read Getting To Yes by Fisher and Ury to see how this works.


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Case study: Family dysfunction recovery action plan

I am not a therapist.

But I seem to get a number of clients who have worked (successfully) with good therapists to identify and work through their feelings about things, but are still tangled up in logistics of action to get out of harmful situations. So they come to me to pull apart the logistics and give them a path of action that allows them to honor the things they’ve identified with their therapists and the feelings they’ve uncovered.

This client was one of them. Her family of origin had huge, bad issues that had caused her to leave and to have no contact with her parents and extremely limited contact with her siblings (some of whom are adults, but several of whom are older teens living with her parents). She had worked intensely with good therapists on what had happened to her and how she could process and heal from that, how to mother her own children without being under the weight of how she was (not) parented, etc. But she was still tangled up in how she could help her siblings get free from this family legacy, both the ones that were living away from the parents but still hurt by them and the ones who were still living with the parents. There was also a part of her that thought she should be attempting to make her parents stop the harmful interactions, or at least admit that they had unhealthy ways of interacting with the family.

This one was tough, obviously, because it was all about hurt and secrets and guilt and shame. The first thing I did was let the client know that I understood that she carried this weight around with her, but that by handing her problem to me to solve she was acknowledging that she didn’t have to feel guilt or shame anymore. Giving it to me was shining a light on it, and when I accepted the task of being a witness to what happened, that took away anything she had to feel bad about. Then I set to work, and diagrammed it out. (I’ve realized that for me a lot of the diagramming process is to give ideas holding pens to sit in while I’m dealing with other ideas, and then I can circle back.) I sorted through what she could control, what isn’t under her control, what she could expect from other people, and what she had to let go (knowing that even if something is true, other people may never acknowledge it).

I sent her the threads I’d pulled apart. She took the things I said she couldn’t change and let them go. (We both expected this, and that’s why she hired me.) And then she took the plan I made for what she could do for her siblings and added on to it, with a strength and grace and trust in connection that felt like a gift to me.

I am always amazed at my clients. At how clever and astute and resilient they are. And how honored I am that they trust me with their problems.


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