Episode 11: Growing Inorganically Through Deals, With Corey Kupfer

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker with more than 30 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience as a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker. He is the founder and principal of Kupfer & Associates, PLLC, a leading corporate and deal law firm; the founder and CEO of Authentic Enterprises, LLC, a speaking, training and consulting company committed to inspiring authenticity in business; the author of the Amazon best-selling book Authentic Negotiating: Clarity, Detachment & Equilibrium – The Three Keys To True Negotiating Success & How To Achieve Them. He is also the creator and host of the Fueling Deals Podcast.

You can learn more about Corey, his companies and current projects at www.coreykupfer.com.

What the podcast will teach you:

  • What businesses Corey owns, specializing in helping businesses grow through inorganic growth through deals
  • Why Corey considers himself an entrepreneur first and an attorney second, and how his career journey led him to own several businesses and help other entrepreneurs
  • What struggles Corey experienced when trying to grow his own businesses and how he overcame those struggles, and what advice he has around beginning a partnership
  • How Corey makes difficult growth decisions in his business, and how he determines his priorities
  • Why Corey believes that sometimes it is necessary to take risks in your business, and why having faith in what you do is important
  • How economic struggles after the September 11th terrorist attacks created significant hardship for Corey’s business, and how he survived the challenge
  • How Corey defines “organic growth” and “inorganic growth”, and why people often have the misconception that deals are only for big corporations
  • Corey offers examples of the unexpected types of deals that can benefit businesses of any size and market
  • What strategies Corey has to offer for $1 million+ business owners who are considering doing deals
  • Why clarity on your objectives, detachment from emotional baggage, and equilibrium in the negotiations are the keys to a successful deal

Resources:

Growing Inorganically Through Deals, With Corey Kupfer

I’m excited to bring you a special guest. His name is Corey Kupfer. He and I have introduced not too long ago. I was excited to learn that Corey is an expert in growing businesses inorganically through deals. We are going to talk to him some about that but I’m also super interested in having all of you readers to know about Corey’s journey as a business owner. He, in fact, owns a couple of businesses. Let me pull them in here, and we will introduce him more properly. Corey, welcome to the show. Please tell us a little bit more about yourself and your businesses. We will kick off another great episode.

Brett, it’s so great to be with you. I’ve got a couple of companies. I’m an attorney at Kupfer & Associates, which is my law firm. We do corporate deal work with entrepreneurial and larger companies to help them grow through contracts, deal strategy, and advice. A lot of organic growth, which we will talk about. I also have a speaking training and consulting company called Authentic Enterprises. We do speaking and workshops. I have a book out on Authentic Negotiating. It’s still related to supporting businesses to grow through negotiation deals and building authentic business relationships. It’s all related.

I already know you are a wealth of knowledge. We are going to try to tap that as much as we can. Before we jump into some of your expertise, take us back a little bit in your own journey as an entrepreneur and growing either of these businesses or both of them. As you know, our audience is primarily made up of seven-figure businesses or businesses that are trying to get to seven figures but they often get stuck somewhere between $1 million and $3 million in revenue.

They start to experience challenges, and we work to try to bring them the very practical insights that would help them breakthrough some of those challenges. If you don’t mind, whether it’s with Kupfer & Associates or your authentic business consulting practice, talk to us about some of your history in growing your business.

I will take you even a while back to give the readers a feel for where I am because when people hear, “Attorney,” in most cases, they shouldn’t automatically think entrepreneur. I was an entrepreneur first. I was an enterprising kid. I had a business at fifteen with employees. Not like real payroll but let’s call them independent contractors. I delivered flyers door to door in Brooklyn growing up, working for somebody. I got my own accounts. I hired my friends that would go around on a bicycle and supervise them. I ran that business for a couple of years before I left for college.

I ran a business through college. I have been entrepreneurial since I was a kid. I went to law school and put in about 5 or 6 years at big New York City firms. At age 30, I hung out a shingle. What I did first was I took off about four months because I had gone straight to college, a law school job. I took off about four months skiing in Vermont and said, “What do I want to do? I know I don’t want to work for somebody for the rest of my life. I’m going to do something on my own. What business should that be?”

Once I got separated from all of what I didn’t like about practicing law back then, which was the politics of being at a big firm and dealing with partners who ran a firm and client relationships in a way that I thought that I didn’t agree with. I had a different vision. I realized that I knew the law and liked it. If I got rid of all the politics and was able to form my own vision, I thought it would be successful.

I started out in debt. I had spent more money than I made, even though I’m going to get money in my twenties, that typical thing. I remember going to a bar association seminar with a guy named Jay Foonberg. He literally wrote the book on how to start your own law firm. He had a book called How to Start and Build a Law Practice. Foonberg said you needed $40,000 in the bank, keep in mind that this was ’91 or ’92 to start your law firm for whatever reason. That was his number. I was $40,000 in debt at the time.

You were the opposite.

The way I looked at it, I was one vertical line. It was very close. Instead of a plus or a minus, I was missing one vertical line. It was so close.

You proved to all of us on this show that you are an entrepreneur.

You can build your business on a hustle: being at every networking event, getting to know people, building relationships, and hiring the right people. Share on X

I did everything I was supposed to do. I applied for eight credit cards while I still had a job making good money. I paid my rent on credit cards. I was about to get a raise to over $100,000, which is good money for people now but in 1992, that was real money. I hung out at a shingle and had some good relationships but I was at a firm where they have long-term relationships. They weren’t going anywhere. I netted $17,000 my 1st year, $38,000, my 2nd year, and $78,000 my 3rd year. By my fourth year, I was making more money than I would have at the big firms. I never looked back.

I built my law firm originally on a hustle. Being at every networking event, getting to know people, and building relationships it’s evolved where now I’ve built a phenomenal team of great attorneys. They do a lot of the work. I do the high-level structuring strategy negotiating. I don’t sit and document deals anymore. I’ve got this great team. I’m able to be out there and do a lot of speaking. I have my Fueling Deals podcast, a book out, and all that stuff.

I still get involved in high-level strategy structuring and negotiating stuff, and that’s the way I built that. Over time, I would get asked to speak. I was speaking for fifteen-plus years and doing some consulting on the side but it was always an adjunct of the law firm. As I built the team and a few years ago was going to write the Authentic Negotiating book, I split that off into its own brand, the consulting, the training, the speaking, and that stuff. We have a separate company now called Authentic Enterprises. We do workshops and training on the negotiating deal-making through that. That’s how I built it. Building a team, creating systems, and having great relationships are the core of it.

I love that you remember the actual numbers that you brought home Year 1, 2, and 3, a very classic entrepreneurial story. There’s the struggle and the hustle. I’m not trying to belittle your version of that. Everybody knows that. Let’s talk about the struggles that you had after you were successful. You were growing this business. How big did your firm get as far as the number of people that you employed? How big did that grow? When did you start to feel some pains around that?

There are a few inflection points. There are three big ones that I can think of. I added partners after a few years all the time. We ended up with three partners and built the firm into multiple millions. This is still back in the ‘90s. I had a deal with all of the things about partnerships. Partnerships aren’t easy. Eventually, in 2001, the partnership split up mainly because one of the other partners and I had very different views on the relative value we were bringing to the firm. I’m a real numbers guy, which most lawyers aren’t.

I run reports. I understand profitability, collectability, and an effective hourly rate. I had a partner who was creating more activity than I was but bringing less to the bottom line. I felt he didn’t quite understand that. My first big challenge was the partnership split up based upon that came in 2001. If you remembered the economy in 2001, it was not a good economy. We were on Wall Street on 9/11 yet. We were out of our offices for weeks. I’m dealing with a down economy, reestablishing a separate firm, and dealing with the effects of 9/11. Those were interesting times. That was the first challenging time.

Any practical advice or insights you would give to readers about what to think about or look for when you are contemplating entering into a partnership? It can be messy after the fact, what should we be looking for thinking about beforehand that might help us in those situations?

No question. I obviously do a lot of this now for clients. What I always say to them, despite the fact that it’s often an illegal capacity that I’m doing the work for them, is, “I can do a great agreement for you, and we will. There’s a reason to do an agreement. There are two reasons mainly to do an agreement. 1) Is that you have a roadmap down the line on how things should work, and if they go wrong and, 2) Which is at least as important, maybe more is that you have a true meaning of the mind’s, meaning that the process of putting it in writing, make sure that you are aligned. That there’s nothing, “I thought we were going to do it this way.”

That’s the benefit of a legal agreement but I always said to them, “The legal agreement is not going to make or break the partnership. In fact, if things work out well, you should never have to look at that legal agreement.” You need to make sure that there’s vision alignment, that this cultural alignment, that you’ve spent time getting to know each other personality-wise, and go out to dinner. If the person has a significant other, spend time with them. You get a different perspective. Relationships work because people can communicate. There’s a level of trust, respect, alignment, and vision. In my first partnership, that was true for a while.

It evolved over time, and we had different views and that happens sometimes. I don’t regret it. It was good for what it was. This is true in any deals, true partnerships, and it’s true in M&A, doing that due diligence upfront, sometimes people see the money opportunity and overlook a lot of the other important stuff. What people may consider softer stuff is even more important. You can always figure out the numbers. She can usually figure out the numbers if there’s an alignment. You think that working together going forward is going to work. There’s an alignment and vision.

EEP 11 | Growing Inorganically

Growing Inorganically: The legal agreement is not going to make or break the partnership. In fact, if things work out well, you should never have to look at that legal agreement.

 

I love that you bring that into the way that you do business. In fact, now you’ve written this book called Authentic Negotiating. Here we have not just a lawyer who’s an entrepreneur but one who understands and values culture. Alignment and vision. These are soft concepts to a lot of people but they make a huge difference. You’ve built a whole business around teaching others how important it is.

I have my lawyer hat. A lot of lawyers are hired as hired guns. I don’t mean that even in the industry, even in a negotiation on a deal, and they are brought in to get the deal done. There are lawyers who don’t know how to get a deal done or deal killers. You’ve got to watch out for that. I have a relationship with clients where they are calling me well in advance of the deal. Should I do the deal? What should I be looking out for? Some of these questions that you are asking me, they are asking me in advance. We will document the deal and get it done if it’s the right deal.

When you are working with clients, people say, “Who’s your ideal client?” It’s not size. It’s growth companies. My ideal client is somebody who’s looking to grow, whether they are in a startup or $200 million. I like that. They are looking to build something. People are looking to grow not for ego purposes or for money purposes but because they know that growth will provide something of value to clients, customers, people in the world, and more opportunities for their employees. They are driven like that. Those are the people I love working with. I bring some additional things in addition to the legal expertise that has been a key part of my success in business.

You mentioned a few inflection points. We got to talk about one of those. Your partnership was breaking up in 2001. The economy wasn’t great, then 9/11 happened, all of that. There are some perfect storm things here that were tricky for you to navigate through but you obviously did. You call it an inflection point. What was the next thing where there was some clear struggle that happened? How did you come through that?

I will relate it back to the first inflection point. One of the things I did was smart then, which by the way, I wasn’t as quick and smart in the great recession of 2008, and 2009. I recognized what was going on back then and cut expenses quickly. I cut overhead, and that was the smartest thing I did because it rightsized me quickly to what was going on with the economy, allowed me to stabilize, and be in a place to grow more quickly from when things started to get better. My next challenge was typical growth challenges that a lot of firms go through like the chicken and egg thing.

This has been one that’s come up at various points. In fact, that came up again. I will talk about it at a different level, which is that you are growing. When you are not IBM, Microsoft or whatever, even when you are successful, even if you are running a $1 million, a $5 million or a $10 million business, depending upon what business you are in, we right now only have eight employees in the law firm. In my business, you can do very well with that.

Every hire is a big expense. It’s not like we can keep a couple of people hanging around for when we grow as big firms could do. That question about, “Is this increase in business temporary? Do I need to hire somebody? If I have somebody and train them, can I support them?” That happened to me several years when the partnership split up in 2001, and it happened at a much higher and different level, even in 2021, where I ended up hiring two people.

Nowadays, it’s a lot easier. I don’t want to sound like an old man here, but now, there’s a lot of the gig economy, part-time economy, even with lawyers. There are online resources. Back then, if you hired somebody full-time or you didn’t, maybe you would find somebody who would be willing to work part-time. As lawyers, that were tough to do, you had to make the leap, and knowing when to make that leap has been a repeated inquiry and challenge at various stages of growth.

What have you learned about trying to figure out when you can afford to make that risk? A lot of people think about entrepreneurship, the initial risk of starting the business and living off of nothing for three years, as you described. That’s the risk we think about but as you grow, there are still risks. Every time you hire somebody in this case we are talking about, you are trying to figure out, “Is there enough to support another full-time body.” What do you do? How do you make that decision? What advice would you give to our readers?

It’s interesting because I had a conversation on this exact topic with an entrepreneur who was in that position when they made that leap. You can’t wait until you have enough business to keep that person fully busy because I believe it’s impossible to get there. You can’t continue to service clients one person short and get to full capacity. There’s got to be a point where this leap of faith. That’s a theme I have in growing businesses and entrepreneurship. There’s always a leap of faith. There’s always a point at which you must jump off the cliff and make your wings on the way down.

If you have no extra business that you're struggling to handle, you don't need somebody. Share on X

It’s somewhere in between. Obviously, if you have no extra business that you are struggling to handle, you don’t need somebody. If you get to the point where you think you can accommodate somebody half-time, you can make the leap because, in my mind, it will keep growing. These days you have some options where maybe you can cut more deals where you don’t have to make that full-time commitment but there are some points at which you are in between nothing and being sure you can support somebody where you got to make the leap of faith and say, “I will go build that additional business.”

The ones who don’t are the ones who never grow. They stay.

The problem is that 1 of 2 things happen either they have to turn away business because they can’t handle it or they take on the business, and then service and quality suffer because they are overloaded. You see a lot of businesses do that. They lose the business and start losing their reputation, which hurts them in terms of getting new business or even with their existing clients.

I love Les McKeown’s Predictable Success framework. I don’t know that if your readers have read the book or seen any of his stuff. He talks about that startup struggle phase. You get to a place in the business that he calls fun, where you can have a very small and manageable business. Theoretically, I could have a law firm with me and an assistant and keep it small. It’s fun at that point because you come past the struggle stage, making a living and doing fine.

You can stay there forever. I’m not somebody who looks down on lifestyle businesses. I don’t think that’s a derogatory term. I’m a big believer in being self-aware and knowing what you want to do. If you are somebody who’s truly driven from an internal place, not from some external pressure or ego, to build a $1 billion business, you should go do it. If you are somebody who wants to have a $500,000 or $250,000 business, and it’s a nice lifestyle business and makes you happy, you should do it.

However, when you get from that point where you are in what McKeown’s calls the fun stage or the lifestyle business stage, and if you want to scale from there, you have to move to a place where you are going to put in place processes or systems. You are going to scale and be able to hire people. You need to understand how to train them. You need to get stuff out of what he calls visionary, who started the business, and there’s an operator in the front stage, somebody who executes and makes it happen.

The problem is there are no processes or procedures. There’s nothing that’s replicable. There’s no training program. To go to the next level, you need to add all that. You needed to get everything that’s out of the head of the visionary and the operator and get some people in there to build systems so you can go to the next level. That’s always a challenge and a decision point.

It takes a while to get through that turbulence of growth, figuring out systems, getting stuff in place, and hiring and building the right team. I have been fortunate enough over the last several years to have gotten to a place where I have this amazing team, and we have been able to bring it to the next level but it takes something.

Before we come off of this point about when to hire, are there any metrics or measures that you looked at as a business owner, Corey, to make that leap of faith feel a little more comfortable? Like a revenue per employee type of measure or anything that was a hint as to whether or not you could make that leap.

We definitely do reporting. I look at revenue per employee and pipeline and what I have potentially coming in down the line to anticipate. That’s all valid. It’s information that I take in but what I want to say is that, ultimately, I don’t think at least me, and I’m not saying it’s good or bad. I’m saying it’s me. I don’t make that decision from an analytical and statistical analysis place. I take in that information is relevant. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I get to a gut place that says, “I’m ready to take the slate.”

EEP 11 | Growing Inorganically

Growing Inorganically: You need to make sure that there’s vision alignment. Relationships work because people can communicate. There’s a level of trust, respect, alignment and vision.

 

Call it a judgment decision or feel like I’m going to do this.

It has informational, financial, and statistical input in it. I don’t want to say, “I don’t think you should,” but based in a lawyer box. I do believe in energy and outlook. If you go into something from a place of fear or being worried, it won’t work. The odds of it not working a much higher than if you enter it from a place of competence. I use numerical and financial analysis to help me get comfortable but I’m going to make a move when I know I can intellectually and energetically stand behind it.

In my gut, I say, “I’m going to figure out a way to make this work.” When I first jumped to entrepreneurship, and there had been other decisions I’ve made, if I ran any logical numbers because I wasn’t taking any business with me when I first opened my own law firm, there was no financial logic in what I did. There’s no financial logic in starting out $40,000 in debt and ending up a hundred somewhat thousand dollars in debt and paying your rent off credit cards. That’s the difference between being an entrepreneur and not being an entrepreneur. At this point in my career, there’s always a balance between being reckless and taking an entrepreneurial risk, and everybody is going to find that balance for themselves.

For those who are counting, we’ve now chocked up another few proof points that you are definitely an entrepreneur. I love about what you are saying and you call it energy but entrepreneurs create. Create comes from an idea or energy, or it has to exist spiritually first, whatever terminology you like to use. Somebody has to believe that there’s something they can go do before they make that leap. You prove that out when you went from negative $40,000 down to $100,000 plus in debt to say, “I’m going to create this thing,” and you did. Great insights from your experience. Was there a third inflection point or did we touch on that already?

2008, 2009 recession, I alluded to it. At that point, I had a bigger business. Obviously, we all know what happened with Lehman and all that stuff. Suddenly, I remember our revenues dropped $30,000, $40,000, and $50,000 a month. Back in 2001, I did react quickly to adjust the situation and guide costs. Back then, it was a smaller base even to start with. I definitely did not react as quickly as I should have in 2008 and 2009. The only thing that gives me a little solace is I was far from a loan and did not have any idea how deep that recession would be. There are way more successful and smarter people than me that run into trouble.

I ran into trouble back then. I remember when I told a story in my Authentic Negotiating book, and I do my talks about how my wife and I had this beautiful glass-built-out office in Leesburg, Brooklyn. We had an office in Manhattan as well but I work mainly out of Leesburg, Brooklyn. We had glass front offices, exposed brick, hardwood wood floors, and high ceilings.

It’s a cool spot, and I ended up sleeping on an amp mattress in 2009 because the money was bleeding so quickly that I couldn’t afford my apartment anymore. I had clients who weren’t paying me and were going out of business. Nobody was doing deals. I had invested in built out that office. That was at a time when you still needed servers and $40,000 or $50,000 servers and wiring.

When I split off from my latest partnership a few years ago, it was three laptops and computers and $600 a month in cloud programs, and we were up and running. Even in 2008 and 2009, it was different. We built that office in 2007. That was another tough point. I know it’s cliché to say everything happens for a reason, and we learn the lessons from it but it’s so true. I had been negotiating successfully for other people professionally for many years or whatever it was at that point.

I handled very tough negotiations for people in deals and resolving disputes but that was the ultimate test of my whole authentic negotiating philosophy and approach because I was in it. I had vendors and creditors calling me, threatening to sue me. I couldn’t make payroll. I applied everything that I teach and was open, transparent, and honest. Vendors who wanted me to pay them $20,000, I’m sending them a check for $50 a week. I came out of that. There’s a whole long story I won’t tell and take the whole rest of the episode.

I came out of that with all my relationship intact. I paid back every penny, even though I could have filed for bankruptcy and gotten more than half of that, which wasn’t personally guaranteed and dismissed. I’m not judging anybody, by the way, who makes a different choice for the benefit of the family, whatever. It was clear that I felt it was my word, my commitment, and where I came from. I committed to pay every penny back. I was paying people back after they’ve written off the debt.

It takes a while to get through that turbulence of growth, figuring out systems, getting things in place, hiring and building the right team. Share on X

With every relationship intact, I came out stronger as a person. My success is even multiple of what it was even before that. I tell that story in the book and when I speak. How much more credibility can you get when you’ve handled the most difficult situation that you have ever been in and applied the principles you teach other people, use to negotiate for other people, and to say, “I lived through this tough time, and this is what got me through.”

That is an amazing story. I wish we did have time to somehow speed dump all of that experience into two minutes. I know we can’t. You mentioned you don’t judge people who made other decisions during all of that financial crisis time nor do I but what I can judge is the person I’m talking to in front of me shared something very personal in an authentic and transparent way, so thank you. My admiration only goes up. For being your word, that is a tremendous asset.

Even if things don’t work out for you financially in every instance, although it tends to be for people who are trying to be their word and make right by their commitments to others. Good on you. I appreciate the example you are sharing. Let’s talk about some of your expertise now in authentic negotiating. You gave us some of your own experience around this but let’s talk about your expertise in helping grow businesses and this understanding and approach that you have around authentic negotiating and how it helps people in growing their business.

There are two things in there. One is what is approach is the concept of inorganic growth. Some people in the deal world understand what that means. Some people don’t. Every business focuses on organic growth, organic growth is sales, marketing, providing great products and services, and getting more clients or more customers, however you do that.

Every business has to focus on that, whether you are a law firm, a brick and mortar or an online business, it looks different but it’s all fundamentally the same thing. You want more customers and clients. You can use that through sales and marketing and provide great products and services. Only a percentage of businesses grow inorganically through deal-driven growth.

There are a lot of misconceptions around deals. A lot of people think deals are big financing like tech companies that are raising venture capital or big M&A deals, Mergers, and Acquisitions for large companies. People don’t realize that there are deals that every size company can do. There are strategic alliances, joint ventures, and smaller acquisitions. Hiring people can be a deal. There’s a term called Acquihire, which is basically where you are bringing in another business but not buying it. You are hiring people.

There are licensing deals or affiliate deals. My Fueling Deals podcast, the whole purpose of that is to give people an insight into what it takes to do deals and have them understand that any entrepreneur should be looking at inorganic and deal driven growth, and there are all kinds of opportunities to do it. That’s the first thing. That’s a mindset shift. We started to get into it a little early before with the conversation of whether you call it energy or a spirit of creativity, etc. Being an entrepreneur versus being an employee is a mindset shift. Focusing on inorganic growth as part of your growth strategy, deal-driven growth is a mindset shift. That’s the starting point.

There were a number of skills that were involved. Obviously, you’ve got to learn what types of deals are available to you. You look for the right strategic alliance partners or deal partners. Negotiating is a huge important skill in business in general, and certainly in terms of organic growth. That’s why I wrote the book. I could talk about this as a fundamental framework that makes authentic negotiating different.

The question I have is for people who haven’t been thinking, so we have readers who have a business that they are somewhere between $1 million and $10 million, a seven-figure business. All they’ve ever thought about is organic growth. The type that you described, where do their own sales and marketing efforts, and what are some things that would open their minds to other possible ways of growing? What types of deals or what types of opportunities might be sitting in front of them or at least not too far down the road? If they were thinking that way, they might be able to explore.

Let me give a few examples, and there are so many. The first thing I say is to look for a place, maybe where you are frustrated. Some people will say to me, “I would like to grow sales more. I would like to have more clients for this particular product. Our marketing efforts are only growing us at this pace or not growing us or whatever.” You can have a separate conversation with somebody who can help you with sales marketing and see whether you can improve the organic end of it. Who else has access to your market? Who are you trying to get to? Is there anybody else that sells in that market?

EEP 11 | Growing Inorganically

Growing Inorganically: These days, you have some options where maybe you can cut what deals where you don’t have to make that full-time commitment but there’s some point at which you’re in between nothing and being sure you can support somebody.

 

Have you thought about doing some joint venture strategic alliance or distribution deal? There are a million structures of somebody who already has access to the market you want to get to. That’s a simple example where people don’t think about it. “I sell X to dentists. There’s another company that sells Y to dentists. They are in dental offices all the time. We have been trying to get into dental offices, why don’t I cut a deal with them to have them distribute my product? Why don’t I cut a deal with them to have a strategic alliance or joint venture where we partner together?”

Some of those deals have to do with maybe a new channel to get to customers.

That’s a whole area. “Who has access to my market? What kind of deal might I be able to do with them?” The other thing I say to people is, what about your vendors? If you have vendors that you are an important client to, is there something you can do with them? There’s a doctor group that I represent. In addition to their dermatology practices, they would speak at conferences, and the pharmaceutical companies fund a lot of these conferences. They got into the business of running conferences, and what they did was hired a logistic company to run the conference.

At some point, they had built this thing and were looking for some capital to continue the growth and also to take some chips off the table. They are thinking about maybe venture capital or outside money. I said to them, “Let’s look at your vendor base. You have this vendor that you work with that hales all the logistics, money, and conferences.” They make $1.8 million a year of you. Are there other people that can do that job?” They said, “Sure.” They want to keep this business. Why not approach them as a strategic investor?

Here’s the thing. You are likely to get a better deal from them because they have additional interest in making money off the investment. They want to keep their $1.8 million cashflow from the logistics contract. They ended up doing that deal. Vendors are a great place to look for, especially if you need capital or may be able to connect you with other strategic partners who may be good for the first type of deal that I talked about where you need access to different markets.

I get the sense from the entrepreneurs that I work with. Their mind isn’t open, not that they are not open to exploring but it’s the, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” They might not even be thinking about any of these ways. What are some good sources of information? How do people open up the possibilities like this other than hearing examples that you get?

I’m not looking to plug my stuff on here but it’s the reason I started The Fueling Deals podcast. There are plenty of resources out there on how you do an M&A or a licensing deal. There’s not a lot out there that’s committed to opening the minds or shifting the mindset of people who want to understand what’s the overall deal landscape.

The whole purpose of The Fueling Deals podcast is I have people on that are entrepreneurs who’ve done these kinds of deals. I have other professionals like investment bankers, brokers, and financial people. We talk about every type of deal there is, from big M&A and financing deals to an online affiliate or licensing deals.

I have an episode coming up with a speaker, and in the speaker industry, most people are running around trying to get paid to be on a stage. Frankly, most people don’t make a living that way. There are some million-dollar-plus speakers but I’m sure you don’t have a lot of speakers in your $1 million to $10 million range in the companies you serve because there aren’t going to make that.

The ones that make that have backends and other stuff. This guy talks about how you license your intellectual property when you are a speaker to get income without having to be on a stage. The whole purpose of that podcast is for people to be able to listen, gather information, and open their minds. They will hear about fifty different types of deals that they can get done.

Only a percentage of businesses grow inorganically through deals. Share on X

You’ve mentioned it a couple of times but tell people how do they find that podcast.

It’s Fueling Deals. They look on Apple or Stitcher, any of those. My hub is CoreyKupfer.com. They can go to the podcast page there.

Let’s spend the last few minutes here talking about authentic negotiating. You teach whole workshops, seminars or speak on this stuff. I don’t pretend to think we are going to get all of this in a few minutes but what things would you advise to people who are going into negotiating situations, any of our seven-figure business owners who are thinking about deals or other negotiating situations that they are in? What can you share with us briefly?

Here’s the first thing I will say. Most negotiating books and trainings out there are on a strategic and tactical level. If they say this, then you do this. There’s a counter tactic to every tactic. There’s a counter tactic to every counter tactic. A lot of it, frankly, is manipulative and inauthentic. Some of it’s fine. Some of it’s good on a tactical level but it’s not the core of true negotiating success. Even if you get to use the good tactics, you don’t want to do it without doing the work that I’m about to talk about.

My core framework for authentic negotiating is CDE, three simple letters, and I have another tool I talk about in the book, which is called CPR. If you learn six letters, you are going to be in better shape than 90% of the people out there negotiating. The CDE, the C, stands for Clarity. I do negotiations on multimillion-dollar deals, and it’s amazing to me how often people go in without total clarity on exactly what’s acceptable to them and what’s not.

You can’t design a good negotiating strategy unless you are crystal clear on exactly what’s going to work for you and what’s not going to work for you on every material term of the deal. To determine that, it takes a body of external research and work. What’s the market? What deals out there have been done? Learn about the other side but it also takes a body of internal work to get clear on why you are doing this deal. What do you want to get out of it? What’s going to be a good result?

I have this whole, not a penny less tests where I test people. Is it a penny less than? Are they more than that? There’s a whole thing in the book where that goes into detail. The first one is getting total clarity. I can’t tell you most people don’t get clarity at the level they need to. You got clear on exactly what your objectives are. The D is for Detachment. This is easy to describe and tough to do. The best negotiators I have ever worked with that I’ve ever experienced. My approach is you detach the outcome.

If you and I are negotiating a deal, I should have a preference we get it done or else, why am I wasting my time talking to you? Having said that, either the deal we are able to negotiate will meet the criteria and the objectives I’ve gotten clear on in my clarity process or it won’t. If it’s not able to meet those criteria, I’m willing to walk away. Here’s the key thing. I’m not walking away from a place of anger, upset, or ego because Brett’s a jerk or you don’t know what you are talking. It’s that your objectives and my objectives don’t meet at this time.

Which is why you said it’s hard, the emotional aspect. You got to detach yourself completely from any emotion around a specific outcome. It either meets the criteria or not. That’s clarity and detachment. What’s the E?

The E is Equilibrium. The equilibrium means when you get into that negotiation, let’s assume you’ve even done the work on total clarity and you come in from a place of detachment but you get into the negotiation. In the heat of the negotiation, somebody says, “Your company is not worth half that,” or they make a comment that gets you upset or you feel like you need the deal and start getting into a place of scarcity or fear.

EEP 11 | Growing Inorganically

Growing Inorganically: If you want to scale from there, then you have to move to a place where you’re going to put in place processes and systems. You’re going to be able to hire people and you need to understand how to train them.

 

I talk about a lot of these emotions in the book. I talk about the top six reasons negotiations fail around fear, ego, rigidity, and things like that. How do you maintain your equilibrium? How do you stay centered and calm? How do you stay connected to that clarity and detachment while you are in the heat of negotiation? That’s what equilibrium is all about.

This has been a fascinating exploration from lessons learned in you, growing your own business from the types of deals that are out there that people can do to grow inorganically their businesses. Talking about some very specific, invaluable frameworks for how to negotiate authentically is all fascinating. Corey, it has been an extreme pleasure for me to spend this time with you.

Before we completely wrap up, I would love for people to know one more time. I know you told them the hub is CoreyKupfer.com, and that’s where they can learn about the Fueling Deals podcast, as well as all of your Authentic Negotiating books and speaking. If they are looking for somebody to help them with their own deals, also your Kupfer & Associates practice, correct?

Correct. They can click through all of that. KuplerLaw.com is the law firm’s website but if they go to CoreyKupler.com, they can click through the law firm. They can click through to get the book and the podcast. We try to have one place where people can go for whatever they want to get to.

That’s where they can find all of your genius located in one place. Corey, thank you so much for giving us time.

It has been a lot of fun to be with you. I love the audience you serve, being an entrepreneur’s organization member for over a decade and working with million-dollar-plus businesses. Those are the people I love to hang out with. I’m thrilled to be on your show.

Thank you. You are the people creating. I should say to both you, Corey, and the rest of my readers, you are the people creating. I’m going to underscore that one more time. Corey, you mentioned it when you talked about energy. It’s like, “Where’s that leap of faith,” and you are the ones doing it and get stuck sometimes. We don’t like that you get stuck. We want to help you get through those moments. Thank you for who you are as an entrepreneur, Corey. Thank you to all the readers. This has been a great episode. I hope you will join us in the next episode.

 

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