In addition to practicing law and making deals for his clients, Cohen Gardner partner Jeff B. Cohen wrote “The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments: The Essential Tools for Business Forged in the Trenches of Hollywood.” The book — which focuses on negotiation strategy, time management and crisis handling in entertainment transactions — will be published in May by the American Bar Assn. Although the examples are from show business, the book’s “real-world tactics, strategies and guiding principles are vital for any business environment,” says Cohen. Here’s an excerpt.
Dealmaker’s Commandment V:
No Pig Wrestling
“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”
— George Bernard Shaw
Knights don’t joust against squires. CEOs don’t negotiate against interns. Major League teams don’t play Little League squads. The champ doesn’t fight an unranked opponent. Unless you’re Apollo Creed fighting Rocky, which did not turn out awesome for Apollo in Rocky II …
When you engage in combat with an opponent, you are bestowing honor upon them. Combat is an exercise of equals. As you rise to higher and higher heights as a dealmaker, there are more and more pigs who would love to get a piece of you. Don’t let them engage. Don’t give those little filthy piggies an angle. They desperately want to get a shot at the champ. To sap your resources, to raise their reputation at the expense of yours. Don’t help that pig become a prince. Discretion is very much the better part of valor.
A fundamental through line of ‘The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments’ is gaining and maintaining control. To the fullest extent possible, we must control who our enemies are and the battles we fight with them. Sometimes, however, combat is thrust upon us, and we do not have a choice. Then we must use our resources to shape our enemy and the conditions of victory to our favor.
Nothing consumes a dealmaker’s resources as greedily as combat. We are instruments of capitalism. Successful capitalism is the art and science of best allocating resources to achieve defined objectives.
To impulsively engage in combat without a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits is clumsy capitalism and poor dealmaking. You must ascertain how much time, energy and capital this conflict is going to cost. Is it worth the resources? What about the opportunity cost? Is there a better use for your precious time and energy than this fight? Are you being compensated appropriately given the nature of the enemy and scope of the battle?
Combat can be costly to your reputation as well. As Mark Twain said: “Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” The fog of war confuses both participant and observer.
And there very well could be observers, as nothing draws a crowd like a fight. Will wrestling that pig in front on this growing mass of onlookers lower your standing in your industry?
Media outlets love to write about fights, because people love to read about fights — the more vindictive the better. “Pig wrestles pig! Read all about it!” When you throw that punch, the world may be watching and judging.