Good Advice #4: Keeping a Business Journal
For this installment of Good Advice I answer a question spawned by a previous post. Because I’m shameless like that.
In Three Things You Can Do To Improve Your Negotiations you mentioned that keeping a business journal was an important part of becoming a better negotiator. I gave it a shot with my last deal and it was helpful, but I don’t know if I’m doing it right. Do you have some examples of what a good structure would be for keeping track of negotiations?
Congratulations on starting a journal! When I started keeping track of deals I negotiated I felt a little wobbly about it too.
The best way of figuring out how you want to keep your journal is by asking yourself why you’re starting one in the first place. Because you heard it was a good idea isn’t good enough; something spurred you from reading or hearing about the idea to actually getting started. What was it?
Is this a way of boosting confidence when you negotiate? Do you want to overcome your fear of negotiating?
Is it purely a business exercise? You want to gather data about trends in your business or how particular clients act?
Are you simply interested in learning about how you negotiate and how other people react to you?
Whatever your question is will tell you the most important pieces of information you need to collect and structures that might be most helpful for you.
For instance, if you are looking to boost your confidence, assign yourself a negotiation task with each new job. Something that feels just a little outside your comfort zone, then record what happens when you try it out. What did it feel like when you pushed back on contractual terms? What did they say when you explained why you couldn’t back down on your rate? Recording this kind of information can show you how much you’ve been able to do over time and it will help you learn what feels right for you.
If you’re keeping a journal more because you want to understand the ebb and flow of your business, you’ll want to collect a lot more facts. Your journal entries might be mostly check lists of things you asked for and ways they behaved. Keeping highly detailed entries can help you figure out patterns both in your behavior and your clients’.
I put together a simple one-page, front and back template that you’re welcome to use or build upon. The front of the sheet is designed for helping to figure out how to approach a negotiation with the client; what your interests are, what theirs are and what you might do if the negotiation doesn’t work out.
The back of the template has room for you to record different events throughout the job. What were they like to work with? Did you discover the name of someone at the company that was especially helpful? Did they pay on time? Because negotiations are about relationships, knowing how the other side acts when you aren’t hashing out the contract is important if you ever decide to work with them again.
Finally, don’t worry about figuring out the most perfect way of keeping a journal right from the start. As you gain more experience you’ll learn that certain things work for you and other’s aren’t as helpful as you originally thought they would be. And you’ll change how you journal. And that will be just fine.
Featured image by hellojenuine. via flickr.com.