Negotiation, Part 2 by Marco Filippi

SLP is a peer to peer-based education program. Each fellow gets the opportunity to run a class taking the role as class CEO. The program team mentor and support us with entrepreneurial learning. Recently I ran the class focused on negotiation. This was a great learning experience for me (and I hope the other fellows). Here’s a quick overview of how it went.

When one is figuring out about the general concept of Startup, there are some recurring keywords that are always present. Marketing, MVP, lean, team management… and Negotiation.

My opinion is that soft skills are the most important asset for creating, developing and managing a business; in particular when it comes to Start-ups, they reach even a much more important role as usually teams are composed by few, carefully selected people whom usually are linked by personal, other than professional, relations. Managing these kinds of ventures may be less complex

in terms of specific knowledges such as technical, finance etc, but is far more challenging in term of soft skills. Time & People management, Public speaking and all the others request a sort of seamless education process for the CEOs.

It was right in this context that I found myself since the last 2 years, when I resigned from my job in order to set up Wego, my Startup. I always spent lot of time studying and reading about the different topics related to the soft skills, and I found the theme of Negotiation of high interest and value.

As it is usually said, everything in life could be affected by Negotiation; the personal life and to professional one is heavily shaped by the way we try to reach our targets. We cannot behave in the same way if we are negotiating with our partner or with a contractor for our business. Also, the logic of how we want to keep the relation we have with the other party will affect how we negotiate (e.g. competitive vs collaborative approach).

Being aware of the fact that Negotiation is such a wide topic, I wanted to have some guests coming from different fields, as I believed they could have provided a great added value for the class.

The agenda of the class has been the following:

  • 6.30 – 7.00 Welcome cocktail

  • 7.00 – 7.15 General updates on the fellows’ start-ups + books

  • 7.15 – 7.25 Clip 1 – Understanding your counterparty

  • 7.25 – 7.35 Analysis of the fellows’ results of the Kilmann test

  • 7.35 – 8.05 Guest 1: Michael Gates

  • 8.05 – 8.10 Break

  • 8.10 – 8.15 Clip 2 – Walk away position

  • 8.15 – 8.35 Guest 3: Leonardo d’Urso

  • 8.35 – 8.50 Clip 3 – A secret ingredient

  • 8.50 – 9.20 Guest 3: Michael O’Toole

  • If enough time (30 minutes) – The apple game

  • 9.20 – 9.30 Wrap up and cheers

I tried to deliver a high interactive class, with several Q&A sessions, clips from YouTube (we saw 3 clips taken from this link) and an analysis of the Kilmann test I sent out the week before to each fellow. Finally, a “game” was expected but we did not have enough time to do it. I am sorry we didn’t experiment it as it would have helped fellows to understand and applying the basic Negotiation techniques. We spent a lot of time on Q&A with our international guest.

The suggested books were:

  • Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

  • Never split the difference by Chriss Voss

  • Getting to yes by Roger Fisher & William Ury

As specific topics we focused on:

  • Put ourselves in our opponent’s shoes in order to try to understand what he/she is trying to achieve and what his/her motivations are. Doing these will allow wise negotiator to achieve better results.

  • The concept of Walk away position; it is very important to have clear view on what one’s targets are in relation to a specific negotiation process, and consequently also what he/she does not want or can’t accept as offering from the other side. Preparation is then fundamental.

  • The concept of BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement), which is strictly related to the point b here above.

  • Who has to manage the negotiation (are you sure that is the CEO that has to negotiate???)

The help and experience of our guests was highly appreciated by our fellows. In particular:

  • Michael Gates (Oxford Business School) treated the subject of cross-cultural negotiations and techniques;

  • Leonardo d’Urso shared his international experience and deepened the concepts of BATNA and Preparation before a negotiation;

  • Michael O’Toole brought his experience as advisor in Negotiation for start-ups and corporates.


I personally really enjoyed managing the class, it was funny, and we learnt a lot. For the next year’s one I suggest the fellow in charge of its management to maintain a highly interactive session, proposing exercises/games and the participation of external guests (Professors, top class CEOs, Detectives or Hostage Takers ?)

Many thanks also to Steven and Wen for their help before and during the class.

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