I grew up in a lower middle-class family in a tiny industrial town called Clinton, Iowa. It was located just one mile from a rendering plant. Although I do not have any formal business education, I’ve absorbed an enormous amount of negotiation knowledge from my husband, Troy. Luckily, Troy learned about negotiation from the master – his father Walter B. Aeschliman. I have an Exercise Science degree and no MBA, but after 20 years of his influence, I have what I call a W.B.A.
When I met my father-in-law, he was already an old man. He immediately reminded me of some kind of cartoon character, albeit I could not pin him down to just one. “W.A.,” as his friends and family called him, could wax poetically all kinds of crazy stories.
My personal favorite was his story of borrowing/stealing an ice cream-filled, old-fashioned ice cream machine from his church. Of course, he returned it (oh so considerately), but only after it had been emptied of its contents. To top it all off, he did this as an adult with four children of his own!
But of all things, my father-in-law was a scrapper. He grew up during the Great Depression in the hard-scrabble coal mining town of Johnstown, PA. Although not a happy story, he told us how he was once beaten for losing three oranges on the way home from the store. He was nine years old.
He dropped out of high school and left Johnstown at the age of 15 because his allergies were becoming too affected by pollution from the coal mines. Despite this tough start to life, Walter began a general contracting business. Admirably, he grew the venture into a multi-million-dollar business before retiring wealthy at just 55 years old. As a contractor, you have to negotiate the price of everything from nails to siding with suppliers. Then, there is constant negotiation with customers and employees, alike.
Thus, he became a master at negotiation because he did what masters do – he practiced, and he practiced a lot. You don’t have to have a formal business education to be a good negotiator. You don’t even need years of business experience, but you ABSOLUTELY MUST have the right mindset.
There are plenty of things that make me mad (hey- it’s 2020), but nothing quite irritates me as much as a studio owner that says, “I don’t care about the business side of things. I’m bad at it. I only care about my clients and teaching.” Another way to say that is, “I don’t care enough about my clients to ensure that I will be successful enough in my business to be able to continue to train them.”
If you see yourself in this description, perhaps consider changing your approach. You must already have fairly good communication skills or you wouldn’t be a teacher or an owner. Here are W.B.A.’s three foundational aspects of improving your negotiation skills:
My favorite mantra for improving my mindset is: “I am a business owner. I am no longer only a trainer, a coach or a practitioner. I am a business owner.” I repeated this at least 10 times in the morning and 10 times at night every day for an entire year. Anytime I was overcome with the trainer mentality, I would repeat it to myself.
Full disclosure: I say “favorite” often. It’s similar to the Pilates line, “This is my favorite exercise.” The affirmation above was my favorite four to five years ago. And now, I have new favorites.
The tools I will provide you in the upcoming business series will be maximized to the extent that you whole heartedly adopt the success mindset. That is the first foundational step. Much like the foundations of Pilates, just because they are simple doesn’t mean they are easy.