Using 'Power of Nice' to dominate a market Springboard: Ronald Shapiro and Mark Jankowski hope their decidedly un-Machia- vellian text will win over would-be negotiators.

October 19, 1998|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Herb Cohen, a negotiation strategy guru, calls "Power of Nice" a "fascinating and useful book." Kirby Puckett, the former all-star outfielder, says he uses it every day.

Ronald M. Shapiro and Mark A. Jankowski hope their book becomes something else: a product that builds business for the Baltimore-based Shapiro Negotiations Institute.

"One of our goals is to basically dominate the negotiating marketplace," Jankowski said. "To do that, you have to have good content and brand equity to distinguish yourself."

The institute was founded by Shapiro, a sports agent and attorney whose clients include Cal Ripken Jr., and Jankowski, a former attorney in Shapiro's law firm, Shapiro and Olander.

The firm's mission is to teach corporate clients negotiation, communication and conflict-resolution skills. They argue that negotiations don't have to be the equivalent of boardroom guerrilla warfare, and that both sides can walk away satisfied, with their integrity intact.

The institute's local clients include Sinclair Communications in Baltimore and Black & Decker Corp. in Towson. Nationally, the firm's clients include MBNA America Bank in Wilmington, Del., and Major League Baseball.

Annual revenue doubled from $250,000 in 1996 to $500,000 in 1997 and is expected to break $1 million this year. Over the next two years, Shapiro said, the company expects to hire six to 10 more trainers.

Sitting in front of a heavily inked-in wall calendar at the company's headquarters at Meadow Mill, on Clipper Mill Road off the Jones Falls Expressway, Shapiro said the institute is booked up through the end of this year and is starting to fill in 1999 appointments.

"When we started I had a simple marketing plan," Shapiro said. "I wrote a letter to 100 CEOs that I know."

Since then, he said, the institute has gotten business largely by building its own momentum -- repeat business, word-of-mouth endorsements and strong reviews by corporate trainees.

"What attracts me to Ron's program is the ability to put it into action," said Michael Draman, vice president of sales and marketing for Sinclair Communications. "A lot of times when you get into consultants, they give you a lot of grandiose theories, very little of which can be put into action."

Sinclair has had training programs twice for senior managers and is planning a satellite presentation for the entire company. In the meantime, Draman said, he ordered about 500 copies of "Power of Nice" for his sales staff. It is published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.

The institute sprang from the converging ambitions of Shapiro, 55, whose career as a sports agent and lawyer was intertwined with teaching and mediation stints, and Jankowski, 34, an associate in Shapiro's firm eager to satisfy an altruistic streak.

"I like building and growing enterprises," said Jankowski, co-founder of Hands on Baltimore, a volunteer organization for young adults. "When I was in the law firm, I didn't feel the law was the best avenue to things like that."

The premise of their approach is that negotiations don't have to be gut-wrenching wars won by one side and lost by the other. Shapiro and Jankowski urge people who are negotiating to try to help the other side get what it wants.

The authors encourage negotiators to take a "three Ps" approach: Prepare better than the other side, probe to learn more about your adversary's motivation, and propose settlements -- preferably without going first.

"Everything's a battle in people's minds," Shapiro said. "It's our belief that although that is the cultural conditioning and perception of most people, that is not the way it has to be."

Jankowski said: "You create a game plan, have your own alternatives. You go at it with your eyes open. You're willing to compromise. But you still get what you want."

In their seminars, the two found that people were always asking more questions. "I had one person whose child who was considering not going to college," Jankowski said. "I sent them an exercise called 'The Numbers Game' to demonstrate why he should go to college."

The negotiations market is daunting. Shapiro and Jankowski count 52 books on the subject. They say a few things distinguish their approach: the cachet of Shapiro's experience representing sports superstars, Jankowski's ability to customize programs to specific industries and the formulation of a negotiating system.

With an eye toward broadening their reach and building their business, Shapiro and Jankowski are developing a few products -- a video and workbook series for corporate trainers, distance-learning projects, a fee-based site on the World Wide Web, a mass market audiotape and CD-ROM.

And one more thing, Jankowski said: "The next book."

Pub Date: 10/19/98

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