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Reader’s Review, April 2014

By John D. Baker

Never Make the First Offer (Except When You Should)
Wisdom from a Master Dealmaker

By Donald Dell with John Boswell
224 pp. Portfolio Hardback, 2009
Hardcover (USA) $25.95

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Donald Dell holds a B.A. degree from Yale University and a J.D. degree from the University of Virginia. He is a former player and captain of the U.S. Davis Cup tennis team and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Early in his career he served as a special assistant to Sargent Shriver at the Office of Economic Opportunity and later as a member of the election staff of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 Presidential election campaign.

Mr. Dell founded and served as CEO of ProServ, a sports management firm which represented over 300 sports figures in contract negotiations for some forty years. It is from that experience that Donald Dell came to define himself as a “dealmaker” and in the later years of his career has written this book on how to make the deal. It is therefore, both autobiography and tutorial on negotiation skills and strategies and certain to captivate both the general negotiator as well as the sports specialist.

John Boswell, the book’s collaborator, has shared in the writing of seventeen books.

This is a book that offers three principle reasons for why negotiators will find it of value and interest. First, if you are involved in sports management and representation this is a fundamental view of the specialty from a man who dominated the field for some forty years. There is no question that this volume belongs on the sports representative’s shelf. Secondly, if you are new to the art of making the deal, this work is a treasure trove of sound advice and clear illustrations of how to do the job. Lastly, the experienced dealmaker will enjoy the array of anecdotes and experiences that color and highlight dozens of deals and I am sure will bring back a host of your own memories of encounters during your time in the arena.

In many ways this is a book of affirmations rather than lessons. The author concentrates on the major steps in the deal-making process, suggests methods of accomplishing them, but leaves the details of their achievement to the reader. Importantly, the author illustrates the impacts of each step with frequent anecdotes and clearly places the deal-making process within the broad perspective of the factors that surround all human interactions. Let us note some of what the reader will find here that illustrates this point.

The basic building block of the author’s deal-making process is the importance of human relationships. Beginning with a careful guide to how to network and how to maintain and expand one’s circle, the author turns to areas such as getting known, finding and keeping mentors, building friendships, and creating a reputation. Trust is, of course, central to it all. The author focuses on matters such as creating trust, maintaining it and what happens if you lose it?

These and other questions are the stuff of the book and receive answers while leaving still more questions to be worked out by the reader as thought-provoking books always do. This is such a work.

This month’s The Negotiator Magazine, as in all of its work, seeks to raise similar issues about negotiating, gives the views of experts on each of them and then leaves the reader to make them personal views. This book also addresses such issues as the role of instinct in deal-making, the importance of serious walk-away planning, the criticality of preparation, and the need to keep negotiations simple, focusing on the key deal points and not the boiler plate.

It is an interesting and useful work on the deal-making process.


John D. Baker, Ph.D.

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The Negotiator Magazine  April 2014 Copyright © 2014 The Negotiator Magazine