ONCE upon a time, a man wanted a new car. His budget was limited, so he went to the garage, decided on a contract hire, and went for the cheapest model he could get. He negotiated as best he could at the point of sale and everything was contracted, so both parties knew where they stood.
After a while, the man decided he really wanted air conditioning, so he went back to the garage and demanded they add it for free because, after all, he had a contract with them and he’d chosen them for their expertise. The garage said they could add it, but it would cost £500. Again, the man said he wanted it for free. The garage said “No”.
Next, the man sent one of his sons to negotiate with the garage; he explained that he suffered from hayfever and that air conditioning with a pollen filter would really help him. The garage said they’d be happy to fit the air con, and that it would cost his dad £500.
ONE DAY I’LL BE RICH!
The man was feeling more and more frustrated. One day, he’d have far more money, and the garage should understand that if they looked after him well now, one day he might go back and buy a top of the line Mercedes from them. And maybe a Ferrari for the weekend. It was terrible of them to not fit his air conditioning as a favour at this point!
He sent his wife in – she was great at negotiating. She told the garage how awful it was for her to have a sweaty husband at the end of the day and how much it would help her if they’d just be willing to fit the air conditioning. The garage said they’d be happy to help, and it would cost her husband just £500. She cried. The garage handed her a tissue, made her a cup of tea and listened, at no additional charge. She asked again for the air con. They quoted £500.
The man tried again and again. He asked for alloy wheels, leather seats, a CD changer, an MP3 connector, bluetooth and a hands-free kit for his phone. Each time, the garage quoted their price and wouldn’t budge. Each time he got upset, or sent in his son, or his wife, and even his business coach, the garage listened, supported and advised, often providing tea and biscuits, all for free, but the bolt-on services that went over and above the original negotiated and agreed contract all had a fixed price.
SWITCHING TO A NEW SERVICE PROVIDER
Eventually, the man got fed up and convinced himself that he wasn’t getting a good enough service for his rock-bottom monthly fee. He served notice on his contract, handed back the keys and the car with a huff and proudly announced that he had found another service provider that would give him all the extras for his car at no additional cost.
The man’s new car was from a guy he found on eBay, who ran his cash-only business from a field. His new car had leather seats, air conditioning, a cassette player and a battery-operated MP3/CD player sitting loose in the passenger footwell. It had no MOT, no log book and no wheels.
The people at the first garage sold the man’s car on to someone who was just starting out in business, who was overjoyed at them being able to find him such an affordable vehicle, happy to have the safety of a contract and delighted that the team had plenty of expertise and a willingness to advise and support him throughout his contracted term with them.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
- If you need business support from someone with expertise and credibility, do all your negotiating up front, know exactly what you’ve agreed to, and don’t keep expecting something for nothing. Be thankful that someone with that level of knowhow is prepared to work with you on a low-cost basis until your business builds to a higher level, and be grateful for all the unbilled advice and knowledge they provide to support your journey.
- If you’re in business, make sure you provide a clear contract and, after the initial negotiation, have a very clear understanding of how much additional work/support you’re willing to do as a freebie favour and respect and value yourself enough to not cross that line and risk setting a dangerous precedent. If you have a client who continually demands work over and above the contract at no additional fee, be polite, hold your ground, advise them on the best / most affordable way to achieve their aims and, ultimately, be prepared to walk away cleanly, clearly and without ill feeling.
- Finally, if you want a car with all the mod cons at a knockdown price, first check it has wheels!