Following my negotiating exercises with car salesmen, I continued to buy and resell cars for quite a while. It became what is probably my first substantial enterprise as an entrepreneur. I estimated that over that period of time, I probably owned in the vicinity of 50 cars- so many that I came to the attention of the state Department of Motor Vehicles. I received a letter from them informing me that I was an automobile dealer. No surprise there but they also insisted I pay a fine, get bonded and have a paved "car lot." That was not going to be possible. I should say for the record, I was paying income tax on the profits.
Friends, roommates and others became the proud owners of my cars for the period of time they sat in inventory- not long. And while the state government may have been good at spotting minor transgressions like mine, they were not very good at following up in those days.
I can go on about the trials of my car dealer career. That, however, is not what this blog is about.
Translated, these four lessons that paved the way for my car dealing days and my later professional development, were very clear:
- You do not learn how to negotiate from a book. You learn it by doing it. The basics you learn working a $5,000 car deal are fundamentally the same as when you are buying a company or a restaurant. Learn the market, gauge the other side's position and do it by the numbers.
- Exude authority and confidence - but not arrogance - by playing and dressing the part during negotiations, which of course also include job interviews.
- You can improve a deal. It might take work and even some histrionics, but the "final offer" is very often not really final.
- People lie. Things that appear too good to be true usually are.
And a final lesson not related to negotiating, but one that is worth noting: governments and regulators are not necessarily your friends. They want your money and they don't particularly act like they want you to be in business at all. You are just making more work for them.