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Richard Ham: Journalist to Master Negotiator, Ep #157

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Where are you spending money in error? Is a supplier charging you unfounded fees? Are they nickel and diming you? Fine Tune specializes in contract negotiations and dispute resolution. Saving YOU money is their bread and butter. It’s all about investigative research and digging into the details. They find the truth and present the data to their clients. It’s up to the client to take action—or ignore it. In this episode of Negotiations Ninja, Richard Ham—the CEO of Fine Tune—shares some of the strategies they use to successfully resolve conflict.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:27] Rich’s background in journalism
  • [6:39] The move from journalism to dispute resolution
  • [10:00] Overarching themes in conflict
  • [12:28] Fine Tune’s proprietary system: EMOAT
  • [15:26] Woking your way through disputes
  • [18:11] 3 things that are critical to successful negotiations
  • [21:45] When solidarity falls apart: dealing with the situation
  • [24:57] What happens after the dispute is solved?
  • [27:13] Rich’s closing three pieces of advice
  • [28:28] Connect with Fine Tune + Rich

The move from journalism to negotiator

Rich was a journalism and political science major in college. After he graduated, he found himself working at Cintas. He successfully navigated many difficult negotiations and always seemed to have the upper hand. In 2001, he had a lightbulb moment:

Why not launch a consulting business that could add value to the industry he was in? They would obtain experts armed with tools that would be better than in-house counsel that was available to most businesses. They would handle nuisance expenses—those that take more time than they’re worth.

Fine Tune is a full-service expense management solution. They do complex contract negotiations and handle dispute resolution. Among their discoveries, they often find that suppliers owe their clients money. Their goal is to help businesses recover that money.

Why Journalists thrive in negotiation

Rich points out that journalists are very discerning and deeply immersed in the details. They understand the moving parts, the incentives, and the behind-the-scenes details. They are good at bringing the truth to light. They are already experts at “Dealing in the truth,” which is why the segue into negotiation happened so easily. All of the fine details that go into preparing for a negotiation—the extensive research, the planning, running scenarios—are things that a journalism major is familiar with.

Dispute resolution is par for the course

Dispute resolution is a difficult area to stake your claim. Rich notes that they don’t necessarily lead with it in their sales pitch, but he always asks a potential client: “If you’re overspending by 30% or 40%, or if that contract you signed three years ago isn’t being adhered to and you’re owed a pile of money—because of all these practices that we’re going to uncover—would you want to know?”

When they present findings to a vendor, it’s always presented with a certain level of humility: “Here’s what I think I’m seeing. I want to give you an opportunity to tell me if you think we’ve got anything wrong.” They try to have a reasonable conversation rooted in the truth—but they will be an advocate for their client. They’re responsible to and advocating for their client’s bottom-line.

Why do suppliers repeatedly overcharge? How do they “get away with” doing this to their customers? Listen to the episode to hear Rich’s thoughts on how to resolve conflict.

3 things that are critical to successful negotiations

Rich shares three things that he’s found are critical to successful negotiations in his field of expertise:

  1. Master the subject matter: You need all of the supporting details completely mastered before you enter a dispute or a negotiation.
  1. Prepare: If you’ve spent 30+ years in an industry, you still have to take the time to be prepared for every specific negotiation.
  1. Embrace Solidarity: Solidarity with your clients is critical. It is the hardest of the elements to control.

The most common explanation for why a negotiation didn’t go as planned is because the client didn’t adopt their recommendation. You must make sure you’re in alignment with all the forces on your side. If you do those 3 things, you’ll more often than not find success in dispute resolution.

How do you deal with a negotiation that falls apart? What happens when there is no resolution? Listen to the whole episode of Negotiations Ninja to learn more about how to resolve conflict.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Richard Ham

Connect With Mark

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