"In life, you don't get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate." – Dr. Chester L. Karrass
The moment we start to understand how the world works, we start negotiating. Children start negotiating their way out of eating their vegetables and extending their bedtimes as soon as they can talk. But there is a lot we can learn from our kids – a lot about being creative and bold in our negotiations.
As I reflect on my career in media, whether working as a correspondent for Inside Edition, covering CBS Thursday Night Football, or inking the deal for my new book, "Faith in the Spotlight," knowing how to negotiate well has allowed me to get more of what I want out of my work and life.
Almost everyone can use some advice on negotiations. Whether it's contracts, salaries or partnerships, the lessons I've learned throughout my career can help you save money, time and grow your business.
1. It's always negotiable.
I realize not all industries have the same room to negotiate. In this ever-changing economy and with companies tightening their budgets, situations may vary. But I do think it never, ever hurts to ask respectfully. This has been my experience in the media world. Times when I was told the rate was "non-negotiable," I learned later that indeed it was negotiable.
Early in my career I was offered an hourly rate for a radio job and was told this was the rate – take it or leave it. I was young and didn't even consider countering the offer. Several months later, when I left the job, I learned that the person before me had negotiated a higher hourly rate. Look, I was young and thankful to have a job. But it's important to share this story because it was an eye-opening moment. Lessons like this come with experience. I would not have traded those early radio gigs for the world, but I did need to learn how the negotiation process works and understand that asking for more money isn't a bad thing.
2. Always get a second opinion.
If you are running a small business and negotiating contracts with vendors, you know to always get a second opinion and sometimes a third or fourth. The same should be applied to employment contracts. Even if you don't end up asking for more money, it's important to know if the contract is in the ballpark of your industry.
When I got my first national television news contract, my agent told me to accept it and be happy. But the words of my mentors to "always get a second opinion" echoed in my head. So I called a friend who works in Los Angeles and he referred me to a great entertainment attorney who graciously glanced at my contract and made a few observations on how I could get a bit more and not rock the boat. Instead of asking for more money, he suggested I try for a few more weeks of vacation and a clothing allowance. The company offering me the job ended up agreeing to the majority of those suggestions. I would have never known to ask if I had not gotten a second opinion. And a special note to the ladies – statistics show that we are less likely to make a counter-offer, so don't forget to seriously consider trying it.
3. Lawyer or no lawyer?
Should you have a lawyer conduct your negotiations or should you do them yourself? Budgets and the size of your workload may determine this for you, but it is an important component of negotiating to consider.
When I covered the NFL's "Thursday Night Football" for two seasons on CBS, I negotiated the contract myself. This was an intimidating but rewarding experience. I would encourage everyone to learn how to advocate for themselves and their business. For some people, talking about money can get a little awkward, or they simply don't desire to. That's where a good agent or lawyer can come into play. Just make sure you partner with someone who shares your values. This person will be a representative of you and your company and can make or break your business deals. It took me awhile to find an agent I felt compatible with.
4. Learn from the experience.
If you don't have a solid grasp on negotiating right now, don't sweat it. Just start figuring out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Like anything in life, we need to start trying. As President John Kennedy reminded us, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate."
Get in the arena and start trying. Ask friends and mentors for advice. Read books on the subject. One of my favorites has been "Knowing your Value" by Mika Brzezinski. Often times local colleges and university business programs offer workshops on the subject. The art and skill of negotiating will help you better provide for yourself, your business and your family.
About the author: Megan Alexander is a national news correspondent, speaker and author of the new book, "Faith in the Spotlight: Thriving in Your Career While Staying True to Your Beliefs," available on Amazon and in bookstores. For more info, go to www.MeganAlexander.com and connect with her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Edited for length and clarity by Nicole Taylor. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org with your pitch.