Nathan Hanks | Crain's Dallas

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Nathan Hanks

Background:  

MAX is a tech company that partners consumer brands with music artists for the purpose of marketing and target audience reach.

The Mistake:

The mistake I made early on was around negotiating.

All these executives talk about how they’re these really tough negotiators that drive a hard bargain. But, I’ve never really been that way. I actually go into a negotiation thinking about what I can do that is fair and how to make the other person happy when they leave? I’m always empathetic to the person on the other side of the table. But, early on, I learned that could turn bad.

I was in the software consulting business early in my career and I had a very big customer that I was really thankful for, because I was young. They were a big client and I was doing great work for them. In the early 2000s when the market turned, they got themselves into a pinch. I was really lucky because some of the financing terms that I gave them made sure we got all of our money. But it could have put our company in quite a bind.

I still always go into a deal thinking about how to please the other side. But when somebody needs something that I think tilts the deal too much in one favor, I always have to think, OK, what’s something I can get out of the deal in return? To make it more equitable.

 Being successful in business always starts by thinking about how a transaction is going to make something better for the counterpart.

The Lesson:

I think that, for me, being successful in business always starts by thinking about how a transaction is going to make something better for the counterpart. You think about other people first.

A business builds its own community and that community is full of stakeholders. And businesses have an impact on the physical communities where they exist. My last company I ran was in 15 countries. That starts to be a pretty big footprint and a pretty big impact. 

But I think business is more rewarding when you know that you’re trying to maximize the value for all the stakeholders around the business. I think that has translated into my way of doing business with customers. It’s just made me more service oriented whether it’s with the people around me or with customers. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to pull my hair out sometimes. But it’s always very important to me that the people that I come into contact with feel good about those interactions.

 

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Photo courtesy of Nathan Hanks

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