Nothing Is "Standard"

I told this story last night at dinner to the Gotham Gal (who has heard it many times) and two friends who are in the investment business. They loved it.

I’ve blogged it before, but it has been almost ten years since I’ve told it here.

So I am going to share it with all of you this morning:

I woke up thinking about Morty this morning. I haven’t seen or heard from him in over ten years. But Morty taught me one of the most important lessons about negotiating that I’ve ever learned.

Morty was Isaak’s partner in Multex early on. They put up the initial money to get it started. Morty wasn’t a venture guy. He was a real estate lawyer and sometime real estate investor. He was as conservative as you can get and never liked the startup/venture business. But he was Isaak’s partner. And Isaak asked Morty to negotiate the term sheet for the seed round with me.

This was late 1992 and I’d been in the venture business for five years and was on my second or third deal on my own. I’d negotiated a bunch of term sheets by that point, but I’d never had a negotiation like the one I was in for with Morty. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever had one as rough as that since.

Morty wasn’t familiar with venture terms. They didn’t make sense to him. So standing in an airport pay phone (before cell phones) I went line by line, term by term with Morty.

We got to redemption and he started in. “Why do you need this provision Fred?“. I was getting tired of his non stop push back and blurted out “Because it’s standard. We always get this provision. Always have, and always will“.

That got Morty pissed. He shouted over the phone:

I don’t give a f>>>k that you always get this provision. Doesn’t mean shit to me. This deal will be the first time you don’t get it if you don’t explain why you need it.

That set me back on my heels and I weakly explained that if the deal goes sideways for years, we need some way to get out of the deal and redemption provides that path. I don’t even remember if he bought that argument. But I do know that we had redemption in the Series A at Multex and pretty much every deal I’ve ever done.

But the point Morty made rang true to me and I’ve lived by his rule ever since. I never ever say that a specific provision is “standard”. Nothing is standard. You either need it or you don’t. Explain why you need it and most of the time you’ll get it or something like it as long as both sides really want to make a deal.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Rob Underwood

    Similar story in “life lessons” department.September 11, 2002 I was going a project at Sony in Woodcliff Lake, NJ when I was with KPMG. My client was Rose. We had a standing meeting at 9am. I was 10 minutes late coming in from Brooklyn.I gave some excuse for being late. It doesn’t matter what it was.Rose – again, my client – said “It’s funny. I live in NJ and have already been in to NYC to honor the guys from my husband’s firehouse who died a year ago at the World Trade Center, and then got back here on time, but you, my vendor, can’t be here on time. Why?”That response has stuck with me. I can’t say I am always on time, or that I’ve never referenced a sick kid or something like that to explain (truthfully) why I was inadvertently a couple minutes for a call. But I am appalled at the level of detail people share about the pretty pedantic personal reasons they are late for calls and meetings, especially with their clients. A few weeks back I heard a software vendor tell a mutual client “Sorry we don’t have a client success person for you and so can’t be working your issues, including your production downs. But we have found someone great – they are just on their honeymoon in Fiji so you’ll have to wait (to get your production down issues resolved)”.The interaction with Rose also left me with the impression that if you’re chronically late (even 2-3 minutes) for meetings you probably don’t care very much for the subject, client, and or people at the meeting — their time doesn’t matter much to you and so you waste it. I cared about Rose and that project and did my best to not be late again. She taught me a great lesson — be on time and your personal reasons for being late, etc. are not relevant, at all, to clients.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Exactly. No one cares why. It’s not their problem.

      1. Rob Underwood

        Yeah, I’m sort of amazed how much people share – with strangers no less – about their personal lives as explanations for why they are late for calls. The one I hate the most is “Bay Area traffic” as if that’s some new and unexpected phenomena.Side rant: If a call is important to you, you’ll get to a quiet place and turn off distractions. When I’m on a call with someone who is in their car driving, or at the airport, or walking around, and the entire call becomes a muddled mess because of 1) background noice and/or 2) inattentiveness, I know that certain someone doesn’t respect me or the other people on our call. We are simply not important to them, even if we are/I am their client.Meetings can be 1/2 to 1/3 the length when people just get to a quiet spot, turn off all the Slack insanity, and focus on the conversation at hand. /endrant.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Understood. It sucks. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid the surroundings (airport). But yeah, good rant.

          1. Rob Underwood

            Of course it happens — sometimes. But when it’s chronic, you know the other person just doesn’t care that much. No one – truly no one – is that busy that they can never make time to be focused on the things that matter most, including being “in the moment” for meetings. Also worth noting that I have come to believe that if you have more than 3 hours of meetings on you calendar a day (excluding things like, say, pitch meetings that VCs do a ton of) you probably are not planning well. Work happens as a result of people taking actions in meetings, not in the meetings themselves. And from I can see most people using meetings to not pay attention and instead do the work they were assigned at the previous meeting.** Note: High travel sales / BDM types I tend to exclude for this rant.

          2. PhilipSugar

            Internal meetings more than 8 hours a week means you are not doing anything.

          3. Susan Rubinsky

            Side Note: Personally, I can’t stand meetings because they disrupt my productivity/flow so what I do is try to plan all my meetings in one day. I probably do two or three days a month of “meeting days.” The other days are for working. So, I may fill a whole day with meetings, then get back to my desk the next morning and get short term items from the meetings out of the way (quotes, sending off projects that were approved the day before, etc.) then back to work on projects for 1-2 weeks without a lot of interruption. Then repeat.Obviously, this won’t work for people who work in larger companies or for different types of roles or projects — even I sometimes have to make exceptions, depending on the project — but I do think that there are a lot of meetings that do not really need to happen.

          4. Rob Underwood

            Yeah, I do a bit of that subconsciously I think. It’s a good strategy. My lament is folks who are on conference calls 5, 6, even 8 hours a day, every day and do the work they got assigned in earlier calls during the later calls (which you call tell by the typing, inattentiveness – sometimes they just up and admit … “I’ll be just listening as I have to wrap something urgent up”). I see this *a lot* and it points to something profoundly broken in their organization and in their relationships. (This is especially acute in non-profits incidentally)Older I get the more I realize that if you just focus on one thing (or one person) at a time, you’ll find you had all this extra time you didn’t really realize was there. But I think people think they need to look busy to be credible, and of course being late if often used as a form of power play.

      2. JamesHRH

        As Andy Swan says in his 37 Things Medium post, most people don’t care about any of the things that you are talking about….they just care about what you can do for them.Especially if you are a vendor – that’s why you are in their life, b/c you can do something useful for the client.Everything else is rationalizing.

    2. PhilipSugar

      If you have been on time/early 20 times and something happens not a huge issue. But you are right being late is not respecting the other persons time, even in personal situations.If it is really important you use the AirForce motto. To be 5 minutes early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, to be late is not to be.I am a little more mellow, if you have to travel, within 5 minutes I’ll pass, if you don’t, 1 minute. We used to lock the door on meetings after a minute after the scheduled time.My wife used to always be late I mean really late, and we were going out with some friends in Baltimore. We were going to meet at a loft on the water and then go out.She was an hour late. I went up to each person shook their hand and said, fuck you I don’t care about your time. She was mortified. I told her that I was just vocalizing our actions.

      1. LE

        I guess I agree and I disagree. I agree that going up to each person and saying that is a great way of ‘laying on your belly’ and asking for forgiveness.On the other hand it’s probably not a good idea to disrespect a person who obviously is way way more important than your friends. Regardless of how pissed you were.That said an hour late is really off the charts so I can understand how hard it was to contain the anger. Imagine that caused a big fight.One other thing is this is a good example of why I say that compatibility is non obvious ways is so much more important than things you do for fun or what you enjoy together or shared interests. Your story that you gave is the type of thing that can pull a marriage apart by fighting. (I’ve been through it so I know).

        1. PhilipSugar

          It did not go over big. It was certainly not the first time.

          1. LE

            I dated a girl once many years ago and I remember on one of our first few dates we got into a fight. Why? Because we went to a restaurant and she saw a couple she knew (think from work) right upon arrival and she went over and disappeared for what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes. While I am sitting there with the menu. You know in those situations everything is exaggerated. Like the store clerk taking their time or making small talk with the customer that is in front holding you up. (But it really was a long time actually). I thought that was very disrespectful and it really pissed me off. The thing is it did show what I thought it did (that I found out over time) she just didn’t take into account the feelings of the other person she was with. It’s actually a pet peeve of mine. It shows a lack of awareness. Same as parents who let their kids carry on in restaurants and spoil the dinner of others.Another pet peeve would be if you are at a restaurant and your meal just got delivered to your table and someone either doesn’t leave if they stopped by at that time or stops by and doesn’t notice you just got your food or that you are eating.

          2. PhilipSugar

            Self awareness is huge and is somehow lost these days. Related to position and place.I find this even with my kids. Now this doesn’t have to mean you lord it over people or not show respect, but somehow people have taken that everybody is equal too far.Maybe this is controversial. Hey yes, if you are black, white, female, male, gay, straight, young, old that doesn’t make a difference.But for instance if you are the one paying the bills, you can take input, and show respect but the final say is with you.

    3. LE

      Explaining that you are late for a reason (vs. not) is typically a social nicety. It is a way for people (who are waiting) to be able to feel better and not feel disrespected. Sure it’s also lazy on the part of the person giving the excuse but that’s another story. [1]Let’s take an extreme example in reverse.Let’s say you had a meeting setup with someone important. Let’s say you were pitching Fred for an investment. You had a meeting setup at 1pm. By 2pm Fred hasn’t arrived. You are upset. Two things could possibly happen then:1) Fred arrives and says nothing at all. Maybe just ‘sorry I am late’.2) Fred arrives and gives some plausible excuse for why he is late.Which shows more respect?Well #2 does. It shows Fred cares enough about you to at least give a potential lie about why he is late. The idea behind that is to make you feel better and the truth is most people would feel better and prefer that.[1] Similar to if you are invited to a party and don’t want to go you don’t say ‘I don’t want to go to your party I’d rather watch TV’ you give a plausible reason that shows respect and allows the person giving the party to not feel disrespected.

      1. Rob Underwood

        I don’t feel more respected when I’m lied to, and it’s usually a lie as we all know. At best, it’s a really lame reason. People aren’t late for the things and people that matter to them.Also, Fred from my experience is not late.

    4. cavepainting

      What people resent is being taken for granted and not being respected.If you build the trust and are genuine (and not lying), nothing is a real barrier.But if you are sneaky and are trying to solve for yourself, people always can feel it in their bones.I often tell people the two key questions the person being sold to is trying to answer in their minds (though they may not verbalize it) are: a) Can this person (or) company get the job done: i.e. meet my needs, and b) Do they respect me and look out for me?a) is functional, and b) is emotional. A surplus of b) can overcome gaps in a), but the reverse is not true.

    5. JamesHRH

      My daughter has a T shirt that reads;” Sorry I Am Late But I Really Didn’t Want To Come “That’s what being late tells people.

      1. Rob Underwood

        There are also other messages to be derived from people being late beyond just the the other party may not respect you or your time.One is that the other party is not organized or on the ball — at least a yellow flag in my book. Still another is that they are overloaded with too many projects or obligations and can’t make time to focus on the work you are doing together. Again a yellow flag at least.BTW, since I posted this I have another — a person who I actually like quite a bit used the excuse “We just moved into a new building and I’m still figure out how the quiet call booths work.” This could be a real thing I guess, but why share that with a client? Again, that’s what I learned from my friend Rose. Clients don’t care – or at least shouldn’t be expected to care – about your personal life, other clients, etc. Any excuse at all is a bad one to the person paying the bill. Again, this is not to say I’m never late… just that when I’m late I know it’s a failing on my part and there is something I could have and should have done differently.

        1. LE

          To your point I do business on vacation but I never let people know that I am on vacation.

          1. Rob Underwood

            Now that’s what I call a “best practice” !! 😉

          2. PhilipSugar


        2. JamesHRH

          I have lost a life time long debate with my wife – if you are late, you did not care enough to be on time.

  2. Pranay Srinivasan

    One great lesson as a founder I learnt is that every single part of the investor / share holders agreement including vesting, shares, founder voting, investor rights and all aspects of the corporation structure are up for grabs and renegotiation at every single venture round.All founders have going for them is precedent. Not guarantees.

    1. cavepainting

      What founders have going for them is proof of potential signaling possibility of massive upside. If the probability of such possibility recedes because of the performance or the lack thereof, everything is up for reneg.

  3. JimHirshfield

    Always ask why in a negotiation

    1. JaredMermey

      …and always be prepared to answer “why?”

    2. dj00t84l

      Here’s an idea to improve content…Posts need to be searchable so we have sharper discussion ..

  4. Steven Kane

    Common sense is a trade secret.

  5. Vendita Auto

    Diplomat: A person who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip

  6. iggyfanlo

    LOVE IT.. in many ways a reflection of the value of VC and entrepreneurship. If you settle for standard without needing it or without critical thinking about, innovation doesn’t happen

  7. awaldstein

    Thanks Fred.I learned to negotiate contracts across the desk from Jack Tramiel (… ) a bit earlier but not by much.Nothing was sacrosanct and everything was colored by the power of distribution and the strength of enthusiast communities (then on BBSs).Brilliant, non yielding, generous game changer for the tech industry. Also the first IPO i was involved with as an exec.I later learned when i took charge of this activity for companies on my own and ran M & A the core magic that the best negotiations leave everyone feeling like they win.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      “The best negotiations leave everyone feeling like they win.” YES.

      1. awaldstein

        I did not learn this from Jack or Sim Wong Hu or even when I did M & A for Umang Gupta or many others.I did learn this from experience as there is no bridge worth burning as every damn one you will need to walk across again. This is the truth.And with community and partnership models human motivation is what you simply can’t buy.And there is never a reason to be jerk. We are/I have been but it is always a mistake.

        1. PhilipSugar

          This is so right. The ha! ha! comes back and bites you in the ass.

          1. awaldstein

            ain’t that the truth. over and over again!

        2. JamesHRH

          Your motto has a flip side that is also true, no?A good deal is one that no one is really happy about.

          1. awaldstein

            doesn’t need to be.everything is a compromise even from a position of power.everything depends on good will as otherwise the only recourse is litigation.and especially in deals around acquisition if there is not good will and smarts in upside for all it will simply fail.I believe in win win as a contract strategy if for nothing more than a defensive insurance policy.

          2. PhilipSugar

            He has a point let’s say you have to sell because you are in distress. I think the key is not to feel like you totally got screwed.This is why these deals are so hard and has people have said they don’t get done many times because people don’t want to take on the brain damage.And I guess I am talking myself into your viewpoint, which is that if you can’t get to that point don’t do the deal. That is something that sometimes people don’t get.

          3. awaldstein

            There are corner cases to everything. And some times you simply do it in spite of the terms.In Hollywood they say that first you rejoice when you sign a deal with Disney, then you go out of business.We did this at RealD to rollout 3D for the first animated film Chicken Little in that format. Impossible deal that had to be done. A bunch of years later created a lot of wealth for the company and investors but the next 12 months was beyond challenging.

          4. cavepainting

            James is actually right.A good deal is one that everyone is happy about and everyone is unhappy about.In the former, you think you got the best deal possible and that you can justify to others; in the latter, you think you did not get everything you wanted and know you made a bunch of compromises, fully knowing there might have been no deal without that give and take.Both can be true and in great deals they usually are.

          5. awaldstein

            There are lots of ways to get things done.Everyone should choose the one that works. There are no absolutes that work for everyone.

        3. cavepainting

          Absolutely no reason to be a jerk to anyone. But some people are so over the line that it can be very hard to hold back.

          1. awaldstein

            of course.i just walk away.only thing i i won’t tolerate is racist/bigoted/bullying stuff.

  8. LIAD

    Corollary.Making a request, adding the word because and then giving any reason however ridiculous, has been statistically proven time and again to elicit increased consent.People on the whole dislike conflict, being able to provide any justification for your requests, however tenuous or nonsensical, gives people the little incentive boost they need to comply .https://www.psychologytoday

    1. LE

      Cialdini talks about this in his book on persuasion. I question if anyone has followed up and repeated those findings. (Most of Cialdini I can vouch for from actual personal experience).

  9. PhilipSugar

    Love it! I add the term “Best Practice” and “Unprofessional” to the mix.Tell me why. Don’t just tell me well that is “Best Practice” I tell people that tell me that it is Best Practice to ignore people that say Best Practice.

    1. Rob Underwood

      I agree. Old timers may still have the classic “Benchmarking for Best Practices” in which was a basis for a lot of consulting and is loosely related to some of the TQM, Six Sigma, Lean stuff. The unifying concept is to use math to evaluate processes and practices to more or less objectively show what practices are better than others.As you imply now too often “best practices” are little more than what Fred is warning about — the assumption that what’s always been done is the one and only way of doing things. Lazy people with powerpoints just call those “best practices” to avoid having to think critically.Side note: At Deloitte we weren’t allowed to say or write “best practice” — we had to say “leading practice”. The compliance/legal department (same one that did 2-3 week risk reviews of tweets) was worried that “best practice” would get us in trouble.

      1. PhilipSugar

        Ok, that is so funny. Notice if I am citing something I usually give a reference. I am amazed at how many people cite things without an underlying reference.

  10. sigmaalgebra

    > Nothing is “standard”.Okay. in the movie Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence kept hearing as objections from the Arabs he was trying to lead “It is written” and with great contempt, impatience, frustration, and assertiveness, Lawrence replied “NOTHING is written”.After he had done some good leading and work and gotten some credibility and respect, one of the Arab leaders summarizedTruly, for some men nothing is written unless THEY write it.So, nothing is standard or “written”, and depending on status, position, respect, etc. some men can replace what is “standard” with what they think and “write”.Much more generally it can be from good up to just crucial and enormously powerful to have solid reasons for beliefs, statements, positions. Social small talk, nearly all of politics, essentially all of the media essentially ignores solid reasons or any real reasons at all. So, in those contexts, at times can use the low standards to cut down the weeds and hand out something much better.

  11. Elia Freedman

    Saying it’s standard then is the equivalent of a parent saying because I said so? I always hated that myself and have worked hard to never say that to my daughters.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      I hated it too when I was a kid and recall promising myself when I was about 10 or so that I would never do it when I had kids. My son is 21 now and I think he may occasionally wish I would just say, “Because I said so.” Instead, there is/was always an explanation and — as he got older — a dialogue. I think he has learned a lot from the process. And he’s become a fairly shrewd negotiator as well.

  12. OurielOhayon

    This reminded me your blog on negotiating the terms sheet with Mark Pincus on Zynga 🙂

  13. Steve Goldstein

    I remember that story from an earlier time you posted it. It was great then and great now. I have to admit, though, that I can never get back all the days I spent dealing with redeemers. 🙂

  14. jason wright

    i remember this story. ten years. is it really? no, can’t be.

  15. Girish Mehta

    The provisions of a contract are typically defined for the worst case scenarios and not the best case scenario (in this case, your bad scenario being the deal going sideways for years).If things work out for the best, you may not need to look at the contract.The provisions are there to mitigate the downside. It generally helps to be upfront in providing your concerns, and that helps move thing forward.

    1. PhilipSugar

      This is the hardest part about negotiating a contract. You basically are saying what happens if you screw me over. Now the problem with this is you are now outlining ways the other party can screw you over, and that puts ideas in people’s mind.For instance if I am getting married and my wife wants a prenuptial and it says if she sleeps with someone else and then catches something and gives it to me I am entitled to X. All of a sudden the conversation goes to: You are going to do what???!!!Now in some sense we only have to fight this out once (hopefully never), but in another it’s somewhat meaningless because I have found if you truly wrong somebody it doesn’t really matter what the contract says, a lawyer will gladly litigate.Having done this it is a fine line. Sometimes it’s great to say: Here is the definition and here is the remedy. That way we don’t spend money fighting.But on the other hand if really bad stuff happens I have found that:1. You never are going to figure out all cases of really bad stuff2. Remedies don’t matter.

      1. cavepainting

        At least in M&A, the time you spend figuring out bad stuff that can happen and defining remedies in contracts is worth its weight in gold.Personal relationships might be different and you are correct about triggering the very thing you are afraid might happen or at least putting possibilities in people’s minds or somewhat polluting the nature of the relationship

  16. Mike Zamansky

    Loved this the first time I read it. Love it now. I just couldn’t believe that the last time you posted it was 10 years ago. I wasn’t sure we’ve known each other that long but my memories not so good.Turns out you did repost this in 2013 though.”It’s standard” is so often the fallback position of the bureaucrat. We’re close to having our CS Teacher programs approved here at Hunter. I’m pretty proud of them and I think they hit the sweet spot but there is a bit of cruft. Why the cruft? Well, as I tried to get things approved I had to fight against “because it’s standard.” I didn’t always win.

  17. mplsvbhvr

    Expanding on some new software infrastructure at work… same logic applies… This story hits home right now. Thanks for sharing Fred.

  18. BillMcNeely

    I’ve been listening to How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story on the way to work. Two things that stuck with me so far. Standard Terms Are for Standard Results . You will also get screwed by the standard results and need to learn how that happens and apply that in the next round or deal

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Exactly. When I saw Fred’s blog title today, I thought, “Nobody wants standard. Just like nobody wants average.” I want exceptional and I want to work with people who want exceptional.

  19. LE

    I’ll take the other side of this story. Morty may have thought he was ‘mr big balls’ by doing what he did and standing up for his rights but the truth is that his ignorance about the probabilities of this actually happening (given what you were asking for) was not great enough (most likely) as a reason to kill a deal. I can’t even remember the amount of contracts that I have signed that had all sorts of meaningless shit in them. Things that stand a very small chance of happening. Things that rarely happen. Things that are less likely than getting hit on a scooter in Venice Beach. As such you have to carefully consider rejecting points that you don’t agree with because in the end many of them almost certainly won’t matter. I think that is actually what separates a good attorney and a good businessman from the pack. Knowing how much to bet based on gut feel for reality in what actually can happen. [1][1] I am reminded of the first leasing contract that I signed a long time ago that I read in detail. It’s seemed so onerous that I really thought I was making a mistake. I did sign it though and later learned that large companies simply don’t hold you to terms of contracts like that (for the amount of money in question) because it is simply not cost effective for them to do so. Then I ended up using that knowledge to my advantage many many times in reverse and against them.

  20. LE

    Nothing is standard. You either need it or you don’t. Explain why you need itWill add to this that you don’t want to explain something unless you need to explain it. Might seem obvious but anything you say can also potentially raise questions and kill a deal. So you have to be able to assess when to open your mouth and explain when to get your ass out of dodge and not say anything. Because anything you say can raise questions in a counterparty’s mind.I say this only because a strict reading of this post may lead someone to believe that they should actually go over every deal point and explain which is certainly not the case regardless of the sophistication of the other party to the agreement (or their attorney).

  21. TamiMForman

    I learned a similar lesson from my kids. Saying “Because I say so.” just guarantees more whining. Giving a reason doesn’t always end the grousing, but it works much more often than not. And if I can’t come up with a valid reason I should probably just let them do (or not make them do) whatever it is …

    1. LE

      “Because I say so.”We use if needed a variation of that all the time and it works for us. No need to explain something to a child and justify everything. It’s not a negotiation. Sure sometimes you do but in the end what I have found success with is a simple ‘pull the parent card’. Pretty soon they get the message.And whining? Just ramp up the consequences which works very well.

  22. LE

    I don’t give a f>>>k that you always get this provision. Doesn’t mean shit to me. This deal will be the first time you don’t get it if you don’t explain why you need it.This type of negotiator is also the type that often folds when you call their bluff and don’t give in to their anger (by stopping the negotiation). They have found that that in the past has worked which is why they do it (like the angry guy against a customer service person). Often they are bluffing. You could also say in reply simply ‘ok let’s just say I want it and that’s that’. [1]What he was saying obviously was that he didn’t understand it and wanted it explained. However that manifested in anger because he felt stupid for not understanding ‘how things worked’ and he took it out on you as a result. That might get him to the same place in the end but it is by no means a sophisticated way to work a typical deal – kind of like a bully I mean anyone can do that so great, right?[1] A good example of ‘just because’ is my wife at the table at the very end of our divorce when we were in the conference room ready to sign. Before signing she said ‘one more thing I want you to pay for me and the kids to take a trip to Disneyworld or I am not signing’. My god I was so fucking proud. She learned and actually listened to me over the years and as a result she knew that I would give her that and not walk away. Of course I could have and thrown her for a loop but I was so ecstatic to actually get it over with that wasn’t going to happen. Besides, what harm in her asking, right?

    1. PhilipSugar

      There was a great class at Penn in the Education department about this. They called this the Stalin approach, and you could do two things……what you did (which is fine) or go Crazy, Crazy, and say since you said that I now want the brand new car, and I won’t sign if you don’t relent on that and the car.It depends on how bad you want the deal. Frankly I have found he who cares less wins the deal.Also depends. Dealing with an irrational person sometimes means you have to be irrational.

      1. LE

        Frankly I have found he who cares less wins the deal.This is generally true. But as I have found there is also degrees to which people are gamblers that impacts the outcome. Some people are just more likely to take risks stupid or not. I see this a great deal of time.An example though of what you are saying is with a place my wife wants us to buy. She is all emotional and fearful of losing it. That’s not rational she is making a mistake and falling into exactly where the realtor wants us to be. So far I’ve called 100% of the behavior but my problem is not the party we are dealing or the realtor it’s with my wife. She knows I am right but her emotion is like me with a potential health issue (where she obviously knows a great deal more) hard to get yourself over that with rationality. That’s what I have found.The good news is I use that all the time to get what I want. It’s call FUD fear uncertainty and doubt. Most people fall for it if done correctly.

        1. PhilipSugar

          You know I have two real estate stories with my wife. The first was she begged me to buy a house for sub $200k with a nice lot on beach block Dewey Beach 3 Read Ave. Now they knocked the house down so you had to build but I see $1.2mm. Mine she begged to buy, it went down twice, tried to go to closure, and I bought for 40% of ask, which was fair price.

  23. ikaraev

    I reached out to Morty after reading your post. He’s doing well, sends his regards.

  24. William Mougayar

    Standard is almost the opposite of innovative. I used that argument actually recently, when someone invoked a “standard” way of doing something, and I responded there was no standard. Every situation is unique.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Standard = AverageExceptional = Innovative

      1. PhilipSugar

        I LOVE this quote. SO timely. I just got off the phone with the “HR” department we call it something else. They said this is “not standard” I said I will pay for out of my pocket. They said we can’t do that it would violate our standard.

        1. JamesHRH

          HR is where exceptional goes to die.

          1. PhilipSugar

            My favorite quote was Bill Parcell, famous coach.Coach Parcell’s what is your policy on this?Bill Parcell’s how many players do I have on this team? 53?? I have 53 policies.

          2. Susan Rubinsky

            hahahahah. Ain’t that the truth.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            Not all HR is created equally.

          4. JamesHRH

            I agree, but HR departments harm their business more than any other department.And they do so in the name of fairness…….which is where exceptional goes to die.

        2. Susan Rubinsky

          I have been toying around with this idea for a couple of months now.I have been working on a public sector project where I was able to convince several bureaucrats to go for a marketing campaign that was way out of their comfort zone. Once I got one agency to agree and start the campaign, the other ones slowly came around when they saw our results. I really have to hand it to the lead CEO, he went way out of his comfort zone (my initial email subject line was: Don’t Freak Out and now he has been joking around telling others about that, so he’s gotten a good story to tell colleagues as a bonus.)But before that, what I kept pitching was that if you want the average results you’ve always had, then we can do the same old (standard) marketing that’s been going on for ages. Or, if you want exceptional results, then you have to go with something innovative.But until I saw Fred’s blog title today, I hadn’t crystallized it down to it’s essence yet. The blog title kicked my mind into action. So, I have to thank @fredwilson:disqus for that.

      2. JamesHRH

        Innovative = Risky for people like Morty.Always important to know your audience.Morty is more likely:Exceptional = Personalized

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          Love that “Personalized” twist on it.

  25. John Risner

    Well I guess I have been reading for 10 years, because I remember the Morty story – and I remember the lesson.

  26. Susan Rubinsky

    School systems would do well to unlearn “standard.”

  27. RobM1981

    Great lesson

  28. Jim Tousignant

    Great story Fred…definitely sounds like Morty!

  29. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:In business you get what you negotiate.

  30. JaredMermey

    Man, guess I’ve been reading AVC for nearly 10 years. I remember this one! Time flies.Thank you for the memories.

  31. FredCanWeTalk?

    Umm. Fred. I don’t want to embarass you, but, um, well, can we talk?This is the third time you have posted this charming vignette that helps to explain why LPs should park some of their cash with you. At least the second time you posted it you indicated it was a repeat.…I will be blunt: stop being deceitful and instead try being straightforward. Ok? Any prospective LPs who do their homework are likely to be put off by your habit of neglecting to disclose conflicts of interest and other f-a-c-t-s that paint you in a negative light.I guess the AVC “community” changes fast enough that every six or seven years you might think you can present a re-run as if it were fresh new content because your old “friends” have vanished into cyberspace.As I have indicated previously, why not post less frequently? Say just once or twice a week. This blog was fresh and interesting five or ten years ago. But these last few years you’ve “just been mailing it in” most of the time.

  32. firesofmay

    Thank you! While this concept has been clear to me, this story only added more weight to my own experience. I went from Dropping out from School -> Doing business with my dad for 5 yrs -> Going back to school -> Starting college -> Failing a year -> Finishing it -> Working at an early stage startup for 5yrs as a developer -> Leaving it to join a remote crypto project as a QA then as a community manager then as Head of Outreach (India) at nothing about my journey has been “Standard”. But it taught me that exact punchline that he says -> Nothing is standard unless you justify it! And once you get that insight from your own life, nothing remains the same! This is a really powerful way to not only see things around you but also to live your life!Thanks again for reminding me and making me feel great about my journey!I really cherish all your insights and posts!Cheers!

  33. jason wright

    chestnut.i need new stories. new new new.

  34. Ian Virlov

    1. This “life lesson” reminds me old-fashioned consultants and IT sales guys. Well, mostly all B2B sales guys.2. I see this pattern (“we have this just as it is”) often these days in startup pitches… who ignored “husband test” as their homework.3. Well, we do not need to visualize “Morty” (Ha! Jewish, in real estate, lawyer) every time in front of potential candidate/partner/customer. Our “Common sense” (gained, at least, from family education) helps us to treat people with respect. P.S. In my almost 20 years of consulting practice I always started first meeting with new prospect… asking (and if required, explaining) like sitting in front of a child. My own child. That helped me a lot.P.P.S. Good explanation, BTW

  35. ak

    Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more.Cowhide Handbags

  36. lunarmobiscuit

    Fred, you should know that every term in every term sheet and every clause in every legal document is there to address a past issue or a perceived risk. Mitigating every possible issue is how these contracts get to be dozens of pages long, with all but a page or two dealing with risks vs. detailing the agreeement that both sides want.

  37. Erik Bullen

    Love it. Thanks for sharing.

  38. Chris Phenner

    My favorite part of this (re)post was reading along again, remembering the first post, and thinking about all the times it has occurred to me since. I don’t view it as ‘redundant,’ I love it so much that it’s a more-than-worthy Best of Fred.I rarely hear the ‘Standard Argument,’ but I love the story. I envision Robert DeNiro in the phone booth in ‘Goodfellas’ — outside the diner — when he hears that Joe Pesci’s character has been killed, and he slammed the handset on the cradle, several times.Good advice or good storytelling? I’ll take good storytelling, any day 🙂