our Director of Rail Practice, spoke earlier this month at the University of Delaware’s Conference on Track Maintenance Planning in the Era of Big Data: Converting the “Mountain” of Inspection Data Collected by Railway Systems into Effective Maintenance Planning Information
Robert’s topic was
Track Inspection and Data Collection:
“State of the Art”.
Below is an excerpt from James Victore’s recent op-ed on success and trust and the relationship between the two:
Trust sets the stage and allows good work to happen. In essence, TRUST is the lifeblood of my business, possibly of any business.
The first level of trust is having it in yourself – trusting that your opinions matter and are valid. Even believing that your guess is as good as anyone else’s add a level of personal trust and self-respect.
After believing in your own gift, you must strive for a higher level of trust: trusting others.
Trusting that people will hear your message, that they will be inspired to your cause, that they will rise to your challenge and, further, act on your call.
The opposite of this scenario is when we fail to put our trust in others. What we then win is the standard-issue workplace practice: employees are micro-managed, second guessed, and made to feel replaceable. This Dilbertian attitude tells employees that their work does not matter. It turns the drive to contribute into a week-long waiting game to collect a paycheck. Told what to do and how to do it reduces even creative enterprises into drone factory workers.
Real trust in your employees means allowing them the freedom to make mistakes.
Similarly, in parenting there is no better way to crush a child’s spirit and make them feel worthless than not giving them the room to be creative and to make mistakes.
When you trust your employees its encouraging, empowering, and breeds loyalty.
Both building personal trust and developing leadership skills requires a courage and letting go of control and loosening the reins. You need to trust that you will reach your goals even though you can not know all the steps or even the outcome. This “not knowing” is the most important part. Heeding this advice we avoid the well-worn path of usual outcomes. We are invited to play and to be open to unexpected results.
When you trust your employees its encouraging, empowering and breeds loyalty.
I’d be lying to say that “Trust” is easy, especially in business. But the easy way is always a trap. Trust me.
An excerpt from James Victore’s op-ed “Success is having the balls to trust yourself” as published on www.99u.com: Insights on Making Things Happen
The FRG Team
Dr. Maegan Evans,
Managing Director, 1997
Dr. David Spellberg, Managing Director, 2013
Managing Director, 2008
Managing Director, 2013
Robert Newman, Director, Rail Practice, 2009
Suzanne Boland, Director
of Administration 2011
Administrative Associate, 2014
Founder & CEO, 1997
Our Strategic Advisors
Defense & IT, 2009
Neil Goeren, Innovation & Consumer Products, 2012
Frank Pinto, IT, 2004
Securities conducted through StillPoint Capital LLC, where Amy Cross is CEO and Chief Compliance Officer. Member FINRA/SIPC.
Falls River Group, LLC, a Global Merger and Acquisition Advisory Firm based in Naples, Florida, and a member of IMAP, an exclusive global partnership of leading M&A firms providing M&A services focused on the middle market. IMAP celebrates over 40 years of successful global collaboration with consistent ranking among the top M&A advisories throughout the world. From more than 35 countries throughout North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East and Asia, IMAP advisers provide strategic merger, acquisition, and divestiture and related corporate finance services.
This quarter we share a great article from a great attorney – and my friend and colleague of over 40 years, Marc Morgenstern. I hope you find this as interesting and as relevant as I do.
WAGE WAR AGAINST DEAL WASTE,
INEFFICIENCY, AND FRICTION
Deals are notoriously idiosyncratic, but they are all plagued by the same Achilles heel: it doesn’t take much to derail them. Every deal has a different culprit. Sometimes negotiations succumb to structural flaws or irreconcilable economic impasses. But sometimes the death knell is needlessly sounded by poor interpersonal dynamics and communication patterns.
Successful dealmakers understand Morgenstern’s Maxim: “[d]eals, like the universe, tend toward entropy”. So they wage war against the ever-present enemies: deal waste, inefficient communication, and overly-burdensome documents.
Effective negotiators actively run transactions using a variety of styles and tactics. Their common denominator, however, is that they are universally great listeners. They accept that there are legitimate needs on both sides of a negotiating table that must be recognized and satisfied if there is to be a deal.
As a group they don’t need to (or try to) win every point. Instead, they:
identify and fight only over those issues with genuine monetary impact relative to transaction size and price,
seek and build on common interests,
leave only the most narrow set of material issues to resolve, and
comfortably distinguish wheat from chaff.
And at every turn, good dealmakers seize control of the deal and fight back against the major barriers to closing:
passage of time (the longer a deal takes, the less likely it is to close),
miscommunication and ambiguity, and
unnecessary deal friction.
Consequently, great dealmakers think about what truly matters and don’t obsess about issues that are seven standard deviations from the norm. All issues are not equal-weighted in importance. They can confidently distinguish between “nice to have” or “need to have”.
A unifying theme is that skilled dealmakers minimize friction/ resistance points to the irreducible minimum. Why? Because time kills deals.
Transactions close when counterparty rapport and mutual confidence is established and transaction momentum builds. Personal relationships matter. As trust rises, there is a freer flow of less guarded information; creating dialogue and leading to positive results.
Once lost or reduced, trust and momentum are excruciatingly difficult to regain. Each unnecessary, ineffective, or ambiguous communication (documents or emails) wastes time, add costs, and degrades momentum and trust. Collectively they consume energy and deal goodwill, and provoke negative counterparty reaction.
Dealmakers know how to compromise without feeling compromised. They work relentlessly to improve the emotional and monetary negotiation “noise-to-signal” ratio. By reducing “clutter” the negotiator can focus intensely on the comparatively small universe of truly economically meaningful variables.
HOW TO BUILD A TRANSACTION ECOSYSTEM THAT FACILITATES DEALS: SOME MODEST SUGGESTIONS.
In an M&A context, the transaction ecosystem inhabitants are buyer and seller (the “counterparties”), and their respective agents (investment bankers, lawyers, and accountants).
Counterparties sit on opposite sides of an increasingly metaphorical negotiating table. However, they share a need for an agreed piece of paper codifying a deal; an agreed exchange of assets and currency permitting transfer from Seller to Buyer. The agreement creates a line of demarcation clarifying and allocating the counterparties risks and rewards at and after the closing.
In this deal configuration only the principals have the power and leverage to affirmatively set a transactional “tone” and establish guidelines (including human dynamics) for all counterparties. They can and should demand transaction documents designed to facilitate (not frustrate)dealmaking.
The principals can mutually establish “Rules of the Road” for the deal, i.e. establishing communication patterns emphasizing listening (not talking) as a key concept.
Effective negotiation is most productive in a transaction ecosystem in which:
all documents/written communications are designed to minimize ambiguous, confusing, inconsistent, or irrelevant material, and
direct bilateral communication is maximized (i.e. face to face, or voice to voice).
After major terms of a deal are agreed to, the deal process has to be actively run with a shared counter-party intention of getting the transaction done quickly, and with the minimum of unnecessary friction. Some friction can’t be (and shouldn’t be) avoided. Every issue is NOT win-win. But LOTS of friction is the accidental by-product of a poorly run and conceived process.
Conceptually, the ideal document clearly and simply codifies the mutual expectations of Buyer and Seller resulting from an informed negotiation process. Ideally negotiation is a mutual education process; a focused exchange of information, needs, views, and value proposition.
The acquisition document is the “place” where the counterparty’s mutual expectations (developed and refined through negotiation) are articulated. Neither wants disappointments post-closing based on lack of shared understanding.
In a perfect world, Apple would design a user-friendly acquisition agreement. The document would be easy to navigate, visually intuitive, and use everyday words and SEC Plain English throughout. Buyers and Sellers should be able to easily read “their” document and understand the business and financial implications to each of them.
Since mandated in 1998, SEC prospectuses have complied with “SEC Plain English”; six simple rules that have enormously improved the “readability” of public offering materials. The rules call for:
Tables or bullet lists for complex material,
No legal “jargon” or highly technical business terms, and
No double negatives.
Adopting the SEC’s approach in the deal world would result in shorter documents, a sharpened focus on the relevant, and fewer opportunities for disagreement.
Said differently, the longer a document, the more negotiation. The more negotiation, the longer the time-period. The longer the time-period, the greater the cost and the lower the probability of closing. The converse is equally true. 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal noted that “I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short”. That’s not a luxury dealmakers can afford. Deal participants MUST take the time. Re-read documents and emails before sending. Reflect. Edit.
Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. Will the context be clear? Will the reader of your email easily understand its goal, content, and requested action step? The effectiveness of communication can only be judged by what the recipient heard, read, and/or retained. Judge yourself accordingly.
Emails promote hasty replies, extreme positions, and sarcastic responses. All are self-indulgent and deal-destructive. Neither humor nor anger communicate well in digital fashion. Avoid them.
What’s the best communication approach for the deal? Dueling drafts rapidly reach a point of marginal utility. Digital exchanges have a value (particularly for data transmission). But sooner rather than later the analog world is probably more effective than digital. Email lacks physical, social, and vocal clues critical to human connection, compromise, and resolution.
Many emails are best responded to with a phone call (quaint though that may seem to some.) Phone conversations and in-person meetings facilitate dialogue (which tends to lead to problem resolution) rather than sequential monologue (which leads to Congress).
By definition “dialogue” is not possible unless someone is talking while someone else is listening; really listening. Listening to understand rather than to merely rebut or distinguish. Deep, active, engaged listening (without defense or judgment) is the key to “hearing”, communication, and successful negotiation.
In addition to the value of listening, many of us were raised with the useful “KISS” principle; “Keep it Simple Stupid”. Perhaps it’s time to update this principle by adding an important “S”. KISSS. Keep it SHORT and simple, stupid.
CONCLUSION: Listen. Shorten. Simplify. Compromise. Close. All the rest is commentary.
Copyright 2014. Marc H. Morgenstern.
Marc Morgenstern is the Founder and Managing Partner of Blue Mesa Partners, Managing Partner of Maxim Advisors, and Chairman of CadenceCounsel.
Marc is a nationally recognized thought-leader who created the corporate finance term “invendor” (for Red Herring) and authored Off Road Capital’s Definitive Deal Dictionary. He has been teaching for 30+ years about negotiating, securities, venture capital, and governance at venues including the SEC, Wharton, Weatherhead School of Management, and PLI’s Annual Institute on Securities Regulation. His observations have appeared in national media many times over, including The New York Times (Goldman Sachs/Facebook; board composition), CNBC’s Squawk Box (private equity), Crain’s (the future of law practice and hostile takeovers), and the Wall Street Journal (cost of being public).
A passionate musician, he has been on the Board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum for almost 20 years. He also serves on the Board of the Rex Foundation, the San Francisco-based non-profit founded by the Grateful Dead.
He holds a B.A. in American Social History from Yale University and a J.D. from Boston University School of Law.
The 16 Most Reliable Leading and Lagging Economic Indicators
Most economists can agree on very little about the direction of the economy. Do we really make financial decisions based on economic predictions by the “experts”? After all, Ben Bernanke predicted in 2007 that the USA was not headed into a recession, and he had all the best tools at this disposal. We all know when we feel we are “wealthier” and are more willing to take risks, spend money or just relax and enjoy the moment. But if we wanted to be more scientific about our analysis, what are considered the 16 most reliable leading and lagging economic indicators?
Leading Indicators can be used to predict future economic trends because they are prone to change prior to significant economic adjustments:
New Business Start-Ups
Lagging Indicators reflect the economies past performance and are only identifiable after an economic trend is established (Kalen Smith, Money Crashers):
Fluctuations in the GDP
Consumer Price Index (Inflation)
Income and Wages
Balance of Trade
Commodity Substitutes to the US Dollar (gold, silver)
Members of Falls River Group are registered representative of and securities transactions are conducted through StillPoint Capital, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC (www.finra.org and www.sipc.org ), Tampa, FL. StillPoint is not affiliated with Falls River Group.