Monday, June 29, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Among some of the tips in the book are:
-Pick the right crew
-Enlist a consigliere
-Cut to the chase
-Master the "sit-down"
-Use your "street sense"
-Avoid Machiavelli's trap
Book excerpt: some high-stakes negotiation
Jerry Zimmerman was a business associate who had a habit of doing -- and saying -- the wrong thing in almost any situation. He was a smooth talker who ran his mouth faster than a mobster pulling a hijacking.
In 1977 I had the big guy manage an auto dealership I owned on Long Island. I was in the office one day when I heard an argument. Sure enough, there was Jerry railing away with another guy, who was unhappy with a car he was sold.
Then it was over. Jerry stormed into my office.
"I couldn't believe this guy," roared Jerry. "He demanded I give him a new car. Then he threatened me with some mob guy named Mario. I told him to get back in his car, pick up his spaghetti-bending goombah, and drive off the nearest cliff, because he wasn't getting squat."
A few days later I received a call from Tony, a soldier in my family, who said he needed to see me that evening in Bensonhurst. When I arrived he told me another capo with the Genovese family wanted to see me. We met the capo in a back room. Tony made the introduction. "Michael, amico nostro, Mario." We all sat down. Mario fired the first question.
"Do you know a Jew named Jerry Zimmerman?" It hit me like a ton of bricks. This was the car lot Mario.
"I know Jerry," I calmly responded. "He's with me."
Without blinking, Mario shot back. "He disrespected me to my brother-in-law, and I want him dead."
I knew the rules. There was no toleration for disrespecting a made man. Consequences were severe.
The situation was complicated. This guy was an old-time caporegime, and I was just a young soldier. If he demanded Jerry's head, I was supposed to serve it up. But this is where it gets tricky. I wasn't going to do it.
I told him Jerry had been around the family a long time. "No way would he ever be disrespectful to you or any other friend of ours," I lied. "He knows better." Mario argued that his brother-in-law would not lie, and because he was family, his word carried more weight.
It went on for almost an hour. Neither one of us gave an inch. These old-timers took the respect issue way too seriously. I had to end the matter before it went to the next level. A tactical retreat was the only way to break the standoff.
Sometimes it is better to accept less in a negotiation than to walk away a total loser, especially when a total loss could have a major impact on your business. In my negotiation with Mario, I quickly realized my goal was to keep the big guy breathing. I also realized I wasn't going to win unless I gave up something in return.
Mario wanted to come out a winner for his brother-in-law, so I offered a solution that would accomplish just that. I would give his brother-in-law a new car, and would sternly admonish Jerry for being disrespectful. He would be a hero to his guy, and Jerry would continue to breathe.
Mario sniffed the bait but said the big guy still needed some pain. Not acceptable, I said. After another 15 minutes of ego stroking, I set the hook. Mario accepted. Jerry would see the dawn. But I sure gave him an earful on the drive home.