2018-2019 Session 3: The Art of Negotiating

CKLDP Session 3: The Art of Negotiation

Organized by: Mark Behm, Komal Kotwal

Location: HOK Houston

Working to negotiate the sweet taste of victory

The third session of the Christopher Kelly Leadership Development Program was an exciting set of conversations on the Art of Negotiation. The organizers, Komal Kotwal and Mark Behm, started with a warm-up activity that had the scholars collaborating to spear marshmallows with absurdly long forks. The laughs were loud and the marshmallows were sweet with the taste of victory.


Negotiation, Professional Practice, & Construction Law

The first half of the afternoon focused on Negotiation, Professional Practice and Construction Law. Hugh Painter, an Architect and founding partner of Arc North LLC, kicked off the conversations with a lecture on Principles of Negotiation. Goal-oriented negotiation strategies can be competitive, compromising, collaborative, or accommodative; each with their own benefits depending on the desired outcome or relationship. Situational awareness allows the negotiator to determine the positions and interests of both parties by understanding, questioning, and listening to the other side. Hugh discussed that it is important to define your negotiating envelope by knowing your most desired outcome, least acceptable agreement, and best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Finally, Hugh emphasized the importance of putting the agreement In writing and Agreeing on next steps.

Bob Vecera: What would you fall on your sword for? 

Bob Vecera, Executive VP of Manhattan Construction followed with an engaging lecture on Contract Negotiation. Beginning with a review of contract documents and the importance of specific phrases and inclusions. He gave examples of legal decisions and situations as falling along a spectrum between Ethical and Non-Ethical and Legal or Illegal. We discussed the power of words in contracts and the requirement for mutual consent of the meaning, privity, and precedent. Bob then followed with a helpful refresher on project delivery methods: Design/Build, Design/Bid/Build, and CM at Risk. He then ended with a case study of teenagers who snuck onto the construction site and were injured, demonstrating that anyone with ANY stake in the business can be considered a party and law suites often targeting those with the deepest pockets or greatest visibility.

The third lecture on Conflict Resolution came from Poston Pritchett, Attorney at Andrew Myers. He discussed anticipating disputes: who are the parties, and how will disputes start? When the demand letter is issued, the architect should make sure the party has a right to bring a claim against you and check the contract to determine if there is any validity. We then discussed the format of conflict resolution: Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation. The Key Considerations would be, who gets to choose dispute process, whether there is a mediation requirement, where will dispute be located, what rules govern the dispute, and what happens if you win/lose? A lively discussion surrounded the Certificate of Merit, a Gatekeeper device required from the plaintiff to prove that the validity of the expert. The typical timeline for a dispute includes Pleadings, Investigation, Discovery, Hearing/Trial Preparation, Final Hearing/ Trial, and the Briefing/Post judgment/Appeal. The conclusion was that Negotiating a contract on the front end should help prevent or anticipate issues that could arise later and mitigate risk.

Salary negotiation with Marie Bergeron

The final presentation on Salary Negotiation was given by Marie Bergeron, the Director of Career Development at the Jones School of Business at Rice University. As a culture, Americans don’t talk about our salary, so how does one discover their going rate? By reviewing salary levels and ranges for a given company in a similar market and noting that most companies actually have a range in mind. We can take advantage of other areas of compensation for negotiability, including bonus, PTO, healthcare, and retirement benefits. During an interview, it is important to make them like you, speak positively about your experience, and ask for an offer in writing. Get a contact to call to discuss the offer, and ensure it is the person who can make decisions about compensation, as it might not always be the boss. A higher level of salary may indicate a different role or title in the company than you are being considered for.

We then discussed how to bring up internal promotions. These primarily come up at performance reviews from the companies side, and we should understand who has the authority to discuss this topic and act on it. It is critical to know your own value, be aware and keep track of your skills and experience that make you unique and beneficial, and useful ways to remind people of your value without bragging. You should know what other options are out there to use as a comparison for a negotiation tool or as a fallback if you hit a limit at your own company. But don’t forget, there is Value in Tenure. Finally, Architecture firms follow the Service company pyramid structure: grinders, minders, finders, binders.


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