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Feb. 14, 2018
This piece is presented by the USD Beacom School of Business executive education program.
It’s not something Adam Sundermann used to spend much time thinking about, but as a commercial HVAC service manager with Howe Inc., he does a fair amount of negotiating.
Sometimes, it’s a customer maintenance agreement, requiring agreement on scope, terms and pricing.
Other times, it’s with a potential public sector client needing estimates to compare vendors, “and I’m trying to explain why we need to quote apples-to-apples work and make sure the level of equipment is the same so we get to an agreement on what they need and get to a good price,” he explained.
He now approaches those negotiation scenarios and others with an enhanced set of skills. Sundermann and seven of his colleges attended Negotiating for Added Value, a daylong course at the University Center in Sioux Falls offered by the USD Beacom School of Business executive education program.
“It was amazing,” Sundermann said. “It was a good team-building activity and a nice facility. I didn’t know what to expect going into it. I hadn’t been formally trained in negotiation, and I walked away with material I can still turn back to.”
Howe president Justin Howe was convinced to send his team to the course after several employees raved about a shortened version offered last spring.
“Our goal was to expose the team to more business-focused training and also enhance their negotiation skills,” he said. “We use negotiation skills daily in our business, from contract negotiations to vendor agreements to employee relations.”
The course used hands-on activities and mock scenarios to help participants recognize and practice different elements of a negotiation.
“Negotiations are inevitable, and I think if you have some models you can use to map out a negotiation before you go into it, I think you come out with a better agreement for both parties,” Sundermann said. “It’s not a way to get more from people. It’s a way to solve problems.”
His colleagues also found benefit to the course. Here’s what they said in their reviews:
“I will use this all the time in negotiating billable rates and service contracts.”
“The course offered tremendous insight into the psychology of negotiation.”
“The instructor was an outstanding presenter. He was able to adapt and relate to our trade and remarkably was able to rein us in to keep us focused. He allowed us to get a little off track and then was able to use the information to help shape his presentation.”
“Overall, it was a great course. The instructor was one of the best I’ve seen. I believe the course was a great opportunity and am glad I was able to attend.”
The course will be offered again March 22. It’s taught by Tyler Custis, an entrepreneur who founded and sold an English training company in Taipei before returning to South Dakota to earn his JD and MBA at USD.
Back at work, Sundermann said he’s using what he learned.
“I feel like I use it now, just understanding the situations and asking if you should even negotiate and if it’s something worth negotiating,” he said. “Trying to understand both sides of the negotiation is something I probably didn’t do before that I do a lot better now. I come up with the goals of the negotiation before even going into it.”
Feedback from other employees also was “very positive,” Howe said.
“The employees came back with specific examples of what they had learned and were able to relate those skills to real-world situations they encounter,” he said. “I feel the training has brought more thought and attention to many factors that go into a successful negotiation, and employees are now more equipped to handle a challenging negotiation.”
Sundermann saw so much value that when an email from the USD Beacom School of Business arrived recently, he signed up for the course promoted. He’ll be taking a class this month on emotional intelligence.
“It sounds like something I could learn from. I haven’t been in a managerial role very long, and I feel like I owe it to myself and my colleagues to be the best leader I can,” he said. “I went away from the last one with a folder I still have with notes and presentations to reference, and if the emotional intelligence class provides the same level of things to help me grow, it will be absolutely worth it.”
The majority of the company’s training for employees focuses on technical skills and compliance, Howe said, so the executive education programs “enable us to enhance our team’s business skills, all without a major commitment of time or expense.”
The investment in employee knowledge “always produces a positive return, and for the nominal cost of these courses, that is definitely true here,” he said. “Sending multiple employees together seems to help stimulate the team collaboration and energy that is brought back. Overall, we’ve found great value in the program and see it as another tool to grow our leaders.”
In one day, this team learned skills to make them better negotiators. Your business could be next.