reach an agreementWhat’s the Deal with Deals?

There’s a new four-letter word that has become ubiquitous in our lexicon. It’s all over the news feeds and headlines. We hear it every day on the evening news. What’s the word? Deal!

The word “deal” has been used for years to describe some kind of a settlement between two parties. Each party wants to they got the best of the deal.

Deals have been used to describe real estate transactions. Usually, the parties are polarized and have to give in to come to a deal.  One side usually out-negotiates the other. Usually, one side “caves in” and the other side “wins.” There’s lot’s of posturing on the front end and recriminations on the back end.

Just  angst what everything (There are winners and losers on deals. In the automobile business, you try to get a good deal on your next car. In gaming, it’s the card dealer, the dealer’s choice, and the double-dealer you have to watch out for.

If this is starting to sound competitive and contentious, it is. The meaning of the word “deal” is certainly far away from empathy, cooperation, and reciprocity. Those are the ingredients of a well-crafted solution to the various and differing needs of the stakeholders. That’s why we prefer the term “agreement.”

A More Win-Win Term

Just the word “agreement” sounds positive. It sounds like both sides achieved a win-win. Both sides worked toward an agreement. Both sides made intelligent concessions and worked together to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

You “cut” a deal, but you “reach” an agreement. Deal-making has become competitive and lately has been reduced to some form of extortion, coercion or hostage taking. Whereas, when you make an agreement, it reflects a constructive, respectful, and mutually beneficial arrangement.

By referring to a desired settlement as an agreement, you diffuse the ego-laced posturing and angst implied in some sort of a contest.  You set the stage for the type of friendly collaboration in which stakeholders can engage in a productive process of discovery and accommodation. And going forward, you bond with the other party without regrets or grudges.

What’s in a word?

Everything! When you are negotiating a business solution. Before, during, and after the process, why not use a word that communicates your respect for the other party and your belief that, by working together, you will achieve a mutually beneficial relationship. It opens the door for future cooperation.

In our business, we always used the word “agreement” to achieve extended credit, national distribution, and connections with the right people at the right time. There were always two or more “winners”. The key is not to view the other party as an adversary but as a partner. In a real estate deal, the parties are done when the transaction is done. But in most businesses, agreements can be the beginning of strategic alliances that benefit both parties well into the future.

Stop Cutting Deals, Reach an Agreement

Let’s stop encouraging the use of the word “deal” with all its competitive and short-time connotations. Let’s get back to the reality that we are bound to work together for any kind of true, secure and long lasting arrangements. And let’s stop being entertained by watching deal-making as a sport where there are two foes jousting it out with a winner and a loser.

After all, if there is a loser, both sides will eventually lose because the other side can’t wait to get out of the “deal.” We have found that if you can’t trust the other party, there’s no written legally binding contract that will hold them to a level of performance anyway. Sure, you can sue and make the attorneys on both sides rich. But is that how you want to spend your precious time and money?

The Japanese think it’s impolite to talk about anything but the weather for the first five minutes of any business conversation. They use this seemingly pointless dialogue to establish a base of agreement by first acknowledging what they have in common with the other party. They know that establishing a sense of commonality with the other party sets the tone for a friendly and more productive process of discussion, discovery, and ultimately long-term, mutual benefit.

Let’s stop cutting deals and start making agreements! Everyone can be a winner!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact