Overcome long odds with the 3 P’s

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

You face a pivotal moment in your career with long odds of success. The pressure's on and you need to perform at your best.

Remember the 3 P's: prepare, persevere and persuade.

Hap Klopp founded The North Face, a maker of outdoor gear, in 1966. Nearly 10 years later, he confronted a problem that could destroy his fast-growing company.

"The quality and quantity of goose down in the market was below [our] standards," he writes in The Adventure of Leadership. "As availability dried up, importers and middlemen began to 'cut' the product by inserting dust, feathers, used down and anything else that would increase the weight."

Because goose-down jackets were among Klopp's signature products, he needed continued access to the highest quality goose down. So he traveled to China in 1975 to negotiate a deal to buy the best pure down in the world produced by Chinese monopolists with little incentive to sell to America.

First, the Chinese negotiator rejected Klopp's claim that middlemen were harming the global reputation of Chinese down by cheapening it with additives. "You are wrong," he told Klopp. "Wrong, wrong, wrong."

Klopp persevered by citing facts to support his point. Then he appealed to both compassion and greed.

"We have 60 loyal Chinese workers," Klopp said. "If you turn me down, they will be out of a job, we will be out of business, and you will have missed the best long-term opportunity you'll see in a long time."

After two more days of negotiations, the Chinese agreed to do business with Klopp. His ability to buy the Chinese down differentiated his products from his competitors, further propelling The North Face's growth in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Klopp prepared by researching Chinese customs and the world market for down. He persevered when his hosts contradicted him. And he persuaded by leveling with them and empathizing with their concerns.

Use the 3 P's as a road map toward a hard-to-attain goal. Like Klopp, lay the groundwork and speak with sincerity and steely determination.

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