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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

KENSEL TRACY: American Business Needs to “Start to Smell the Coffee”.

by Kensel Tracy

I recently had a very unique experience this month launching my new product in the U.K., Canada and the United States all at the same time and had three very different business experiences. Before I get into it, I thought I should give you my background.

I am a Marketing Coach and have been in business over 30 years. During that time period I have made literally 100’s of deals, some with a hand shake, some with formal contracts, some over the telephone and some on the back of a napkin.

The "art of the deal" depends a lot on the individual you are doing the deal with and the relationship you can develop to ensure that there is a good value proposition on both sides of the equation. It depends a lot on trust and ensuring that there is a good “win, win” for everyone.

Recently I had an experience of dealing with three types of people in one week including the CEO of a British Company, the CEO of an American Company and the CEO of a Canadian Company, selling all three individuals the same product for the same needs.

Business used to be a simple thing. Two people meet, they have a value proposition, they agree on a price, etc. and they do business. For example, in Britain a deal was done over the phone, the value of the product stated, the price and the documentation and the deal. It took about two weeks and three phone calls and a couple of emails to establish the parameters and to outline the value and the deal and then an agreement was completed which was emailed and sent back.

In Canada, the CEO reviewed the Website, asked questions, wanted a visual demo and then reviewed the pricing and the delivery and within 24 hours got back with a few questions and ordered the product. Another clean deal with very little hassle.

The common element in dealing with both of these individuals was that they had trust in the company that was selling the product and trust in the product that was being supplied. Trusting that they could sell it, they moved quickly on making the transaction happen.

The American company was completely different. I am not saying that all companies are alike in America. Certain individuals may operate in a more efficient and effective manner, it’s just that this company and this deal provides a good example of what I think is a symptom of what is haunting American business these days.

The American company, first of all, complained that the economy was not so good and that because of that they needed a better price than what was being offered because the market was so tough.

The American company wanted complete legal documentation on the product due to the fact that should the product fail they did not want to be put in a position where they could be sued. In America, it’s a high litigious society and the “actual fear of being sued” seemed stronger than the fact “that they actually would be sued. “

When the American company did not get the price it wanted, even though they had agreed to the first price, they decided to change the deal and said that they could not work with the distributor. Then they decided they wanted to go "direct" to get a better price. The American company became highly offended when it was offered a fair deal that would make everyone money but not give the American company an advantage in the process. The American company even joked about the fact that the supplier, which was Canadian, was a lot nicer than the companies they usually deal with.

So ongoing, the American company kept changing the deal even when it was agreed to make specific concessions to the American company throughout the process to ensure that the company would get more favourable terms. Then they stated that they would want a final say in regards to how the product was manufactured, when and where.

The American company took 90 days to discuss the first agreement, 90 days for the second agreement and finally the Canadian company just walked away from the company. No matter how big the “so called opportunity was” it was apparent that the American company was determined to win the game.

Now, I am not saying that this is the case with every company in America. What I am saying is that this is a simple example of the symptoms that are affecting America and American business today. The art of the deal used to be based on mutual respect and certain understanding that business was about sustaining growth at all levels. Deals were based on trust and there used to be a win/win for everyone.

Everyone is in a tough business environment; it’s just not in America.

American business needs to remember there is a world market out there that is doing quite nicely without selling to America and the emerging nations such as India, China, the European Union, Canada and Australia are doing quite nicely in those markets.

Yes, tough times dictate making some difficult business decisions but when world-wide competition is moving faster, quicker, leaner, and doing it in a way that is much more fun, then it’s time for America to wake-up and, as they say in America, “start to smell the coffee”.

Kensel Tracy is a Senior Consultant and a Marketing Coach with the Corporate Coachworkz located in Chelsea, Quebec, and Ottawa Canada. If you have an interesting business story in Canada, he can be contacted at

For more information, please visit Kensel's TNNWC Bio.

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