Negotiating New Employment Archives

“Forming or Joining a Start-Up? – 16 Questions that Need to Be Answered”

Published on January 6th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”

– Henry Winkler

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORY”: Jessica, 36, was more than excited. After five years as Assistant Director of the digital division of a fashion design company, she had been approached by Martin, a colleague she knew from a previous job, about a new opportunity.

Martin was putting together a new venture that would contract out the services of tech-savvy graphic artists, visual designers, and computer coders to corporate app and website developers. Jessica saw the idea as a very good one, as she knew there was a need for such a firm from her work, and to her knowledge no one else seemed to be filling the need on a national level. More than once she had thought to herself, “Someone ought to do that.” Martin had financial backing for the venture from a hedge fund owner, and thought Jessica would be the very best person to help him put together and run the start-up.

What most intrigued Jessica was the opportunity to be a part owner of the new company, something she had often thought about but that had never before come her way. As Martin presented the idea, Jessica would have the opportunity to earn over time up to twenty percent (20%) ownership of the new company.

After discussing it with her husband, and meeting with Martin and the start-up’s financial backer, Jessica decided to “take the plunge.” She was presented with a set of papers that seemed quite simple. She was told that “formal documents” would later be prepared. In the meantime, Martin assured her, they would get things rolling and attend to the “details” later.

After leasing a small office space, hiring office staff and assembling an initial sales team, Jessica and Martin were ready to roll. As anticipated, Martin would be in charge of sales, and Jessica would be in charge of administration. Soon after, the difficulties began.

Martin expected to receive a much higher salary than Jessica would receive; Jessica presumed they would be equal. By happenstance, Jessica learned that Martin would be receiving a forty percent ownership stake, double her own, which did not sit right with her; she presumed they were to be equal partners. The company’s accountant was a cousin of Martin’s, and seemed to answer Martin’s questions, but was always unavailable to answer Jessica’s.

One of the documents that Jessica was given to sign contained a non-compete provision that provided she could not work in this industry for a full year if she was ever to leave, or be asked to leave. Jessica was truly shocked to learn that Martin remained employed by his former employer as a consultant, and so was not devoting full time efforts to this company. Each week seemed to present Jessica with another reason to question the wisdom of her decision to join.

After seven months, Jessica “threw in the towel.” She retained our firm to help her achieve fair separation terms, which proved to be more complicated than expected, and even grew adversarial over time. It was especially difficult to get Jessica’s name removed as a guarantor of the office lease obligations. To make a long story short, Jessica was happy to end the dream, which for her had become something of a nightmare.

LESSON TO LEARN: Forming or joining a start-up company is almost always exciting and exhilarating, but can also be quite disappointing. Creating a new business is difficult, but doing so with others requires more communication, focus, attention to detail and patience than most people imagine. It’s just so easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm.

It’s hard to apply cold reason to hot passion, but it is an exercise in discipline that is highly recommended, especially by those who did not do so, and sure wish they did. Here are the 16 questions I suggest you try to answer if you decide to form or join a start-up.

Every business has its ups and downs, but start-ups have them more commonly and more intensely than established firms. These 16 questions are geared to prospective founders and partners of start-ups, but are also applicable to “early stage” employees, hired after the start-up has gotten going, especially if they are told one day they might become owners by vesting in shares.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Whether you are forming a start-up with one or two others, or being hired by a start-up, with a suggestion that one day you may become one of the shareholders, you need to ask these questions to understand what you are getting into.
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Interviews and Meetings – How to Look Smart

Published on November 10th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“If I worried about appearances I wouldn’t be at Cubs games.”

– Billy Corgan

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: During interviews and meetings, we all want to look intelligent, wise, knowing and capable. Consciously or subconsciously, we do things to help ourselves appear that way. Some work. Some don’t. Some backfire.

Do you know how you can manage the impression you give? You may be very surprised at what researchers have recently concluded.

LESSON TO LEARN: Psychologists study a lot of things about what makes people “tick.” I recently came across an article that summarizes the many tactics people use to make themselves look smart, some successfully, some pathetically. The findings, explained below, may surprise you.

The studies suggest three lessons to learn about creating a positive first impression of intelligence at interviews and meetings: First, you can’t fake being intelligent. Second, you can learn to act in an intelligent manner, and to avoid acting like a fool. And third, there are a few small things you can do can make a bit of a difference, too.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are what the psychologists who have studied “What makes people look smart” have concluded:
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“How should I respond to a Job Offer being placed ‘on hold?’”

Published on October 19th, 2010 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, Alan. I have a question for you. Recently I received a Job Offer Letter from an organization. The Offer Letter said that it must be accepted within seven days. I asked the Human Resources representative if I could have one extra week to consider the Job Offer, because it required that I relocate, and I am unsure how this might affect my family.

The next day the Human Resources representative sent me an email note in which I was told the Job Offer was now “on hold.”

Can you please tell me how I should respond in this situation. It is a really good organization, and since I am unemployed I don’t want to lose this job opportunity.

         Shiva K. P.
         Bangalore, India

Answer: Hello, Shiva, and thank you for writing in. Let us see what we can do.

First, we must bear in mind that we don’t know why the organization placed the Job Offer “on hold.” It could have something to do with your request for one more week to consider – maybe they need someone to start absolutely immediately – or it could be for some unrelated reason – such as a reconsideration if there is enough money in the budget. Maybe even the person who has the job now, and who was leaving, has decided to stay. So let us not focus on things we don’t know.

Second, I suggest that you decide – either yes, or no – whether you are now prepared to accept the job. If you are not ready to say “Yes” or “No” to the Job Offer, then there really is nothing you should do at this time – accept try to make a final decision. 

Third, once you are certain you want to accept the position, and relocate for it as is required, I strongly suggest you promptly send an email to the Human Resources representative formally accepting the position, if it is still available. Then, and only then, do you have a right to ask the questions on your mind: (1) whether the position is still available, (2) when can you be told if the job is yours, and (3) when you should begin preparing to move. Of course, your email note to Human Resources should always be polite and professional.

In my almost 30 years of working with people in your situation, I have never once heard of a Job Offer being withdrawn just because the job candidate asked for an extra week to consider it. Accepting a job is a serious matter, and even more so when it involves relocating. If you are the person with the skills for the job, you are surely worth another seven days of waiting. When you decide, if it is to accept the position, then by all means let them know, with enthusiasm, and without delay.

Hope this is helpful. Thanks for contacting us from all the way around the globe. It is exciting to know that we have friends in Bangalore!!

          Best, Al Sklover  

P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations, just [click here.] 

Help Yourself With These and Other
Unique NEW JOB Materials

New Job 3: Confirming Basic Terms of New Job Offer
New Job 5: Model Response to Receiving a New Job Offer
New Job 7: Checklist of New Job Items to Consider Requesting/Negotiating
New Job 13: Six Important Elements to Request Be In Your Expected Job Offer
New Job 15: Model Request for Sign-On Bonus
New Job 16: Two Model Memos to Protect Your Book Of Business ("B.O.B.")
Job Issues 5: Model Response to Request That You Sign a Non-Compete

[ Click Here ] and Go to Section "D"


© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

What, Exactly, is “Negotiating at Work?”

Published on July 30th, 2008 by Alan L Sklover

Nearly every day I meet or speak with new clients who come to my firm seeking help negotiating some aspect of their employment or career. They may be seeking a new title, or a raise, a promotion, a bonus, a larger territory, or even severance. One of our first and most important discussion topics is “What, exactly, do we mean by ‘negotiating at work?'”

When we say “negotiating” most people conjure up a picture of two or more people, seated on opposite sides of a desk or table, haggling over the price of something. It might be a car, or a house, or a watch. One says, “I will pay you X,” and the other says, “No, I want at least Y.” That, to me, is not “negotiating.” Rather, it is “haggling,” a rather inconsequential, late-stage step in the overall negotiation process.

Negotiating is perhaps best explained by using a more “accessible,” more easily understood word: “motivating.” Negotiation is a process of motivating another person to do something that he or she is – at that moment – not inclined to do. Motivation is the essence of negotiation.

Let me offer perhaps a gross and graphic illustration of what I mean: once, without warning, I found myself confronted by someone who placed a sharp metallic object to my throat. Instantly, I was “motivated” to tell that person that (a) there was $100 in my wallet, (b) my watch was gold and valuable, and (c) I had no problem offering up my bank pin number, as well. It wasn’t fun, but I was surely motivated, to do what I could to save my life. Luckily, it worked.

We are all “motivated” to do different things every day. Almost from birth, babies learn how they can motivate sleepy parents to get out of a warm bed on a cold winter’s night, and get whatever it is they want, whether it’s a bottle, a diaper change, or merely a warm hug. It’s simple: they simply say, in their own little way, “I may deprive you of an entire night’s sleep; let’s see how fast you can figure out what will stop my crying?” Parents soon learn to think and act fast, if they want to get any sleep at all that night. Though I went through it decades ago, I remember it well.

So, too, can you motivate your boss to do all he or she can to make you happy, to retain your services, to give you what it is you want. No, it’s not by crying and screaming all night long. Instead, it is by showing that you can make their own lives better, by being hard-working, positive-minded, conscientious, innovative, and skilled at the particular aspects of your job. A valuable team member, a productive asset, a good “investment.” I hate to use the phrase, but a true “human resource.”

Negotiation is motivation. The thing that gives you the power to motivate is what we call “leverage.” At work, leverage is being perceived as being valuable, contributing, collaborative. For a moment, think about Derek Jeter, shortstop for the New York Yankees. Does he have to cry, scream or haggle to get what he wants? No, because he has spent nearly all of his time since sixth grade making himself valuable to his Manager and to his team. And though some say Derek Jeter is really not that great a ballplayer, the way he carries himself, the self-discipline and self-respect that he emanates – the things that make his teammates elect him team captain every year – these are the things that give Derek Jeter great leverage. His hefty compensation is not a result of haggling; no, it is a result of his representing perceived value to his Manager and team.

Negotiating at work is a matter of motivating your boss to want, need, even crave the value you represent to him or her, and the team. The leverage that motivates is the perception that you can do your job, that you are willing to work hard, that you can work with others, that you are not afraid to either use your brain or speak your mind, that you are not “me-centric,” that you help “move the ball ahead.”

Once you do that, the “haggling” is easy. Just ask Derek Jeter.

For great info and insight, consider viewing our 12-minute Sklover-On-Demand Video entitled “Can I Really Negotiate with My Boss?” To do so, just [click here.]

© 2008 Alan L. Sklover. Commercial uses prohibited. All rights reserved and strictly enforced.

Are Employment Offer Letters Binding like Contracts?

Published on June 25th, 2008 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I signed an employment offer letter that said that I would be eligible for a $1,000 raise after 4 months, provided I met certain goals. After 4 months, nothing was said. Three months later my boss offered me a bonus program that had nothing to do with the raise.

The employment offer letter also said I would repay the company for training if I left before a certain date. When a friend of mine left, she wasn’t required to repay the training monies, so I thought that I wouldn’t be required to do so, either.

Because I didn’t get the raise I was promised, I quit, before the certain date. My boss is now demanding I pay the company back for the training monies. Do I have to?

Courtney, Charlottesville, VA

Answer: As a general rule, an employment offer letter is binding; the employer and the employee both have to fulfill their obligations to the other that are set forth in the offer letter. Your boss was bound to give you a raise if you met the 4-month goals, and you were bound to repay the training monies if you left before the certain date.

The question seems to be this: Does your boss’s failure to pay you the raise justify, or excuse, your leaving early and not repaying the training monies? The answer is Probably Yes. I believe (but can’t guarantee) that most courts would deny your boss what he claims is owed him, if you quit because he didn’t pay you the promised raise. No employee is obligated to stay working when what they are supposed to be paid is not paid to them.

By the way, because your boss didn’t require your friend to repay the monies does not mean he had no right to require that you do; the law does not require that employers treat all employees exactly alike.

One question remains: did you achieve your 4-month goals? It seems your boss did not tell you. If you think you probably did achieve those goals, you’re on pretty solid ground. But, if the goal was 10 new sales, and you only achieved 4, you’ll probably be found in the wrong, and have to honor the training repayment monies.

Hope that’s good news. Thanks for writing in. Hope you’ll visit our blog often.

Best, Al Sklover

If you agreed to repay your former employer (a) tuition reimbursement, (b) relocation expenses, (c) a sign-on bonus, or even (d) a short-term loan, you may be able to have that obligation waived and forgiven. We offer a Model Letter for Repayment Obligation Forgiveness – with 18 Great Reasons, just [click here.] “What to Say, and How to Say It.™ – Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Help Yourself With These and Other
Unique NEW JOB Materials

New Job 3: Confirming Basic Terms of New Job Offer
New Job 5: Model Response to Receiving a New Job Offer
New Job 7: Checklist of New Job Items to Consider Requesting/Negotiating
New Job 13: Six Important Elements to Request Be In Your Expected Job Offer
New Job 15: Model Request for Sign-On Bonus
New Job 16: Two Model Memos to Protect Your Book Of Business ("B.O.B.")
Job Issues 5: Model Response to Request That You Sign a Non-Compete

[ Click Here ] and Go to Section "D"

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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