“When we’re talking about Do Deal, we’re really talking about the verb of how you deal with people… as an ongoing kind of living thing.”
Richard Hoare didn’t set out to become an expert on negotiation. In fact his first attempt at negotiation, when he was offered a poorly paid first job in the music industry involved, he admits, no negotiation at all. But after a career at the top of legal services in the music industry he’s learned a thing or two, and recognized the need for a short, straightforward book that set out the principles of successful negotiation in a way that anyone could grasp and use.
Spoiler alert: It’s not about getting your own way, it’s about uncovering value and nurturing relationships. And because it was written with a co-author, the book involved some negotiation along the way itself.
In this week’s conversation Richard shares his tactics for writing collaboratively, and indeed writing at all alongside a busy work schedule, together with some practical and profound insights on the art of the (better) deal.
Hoare Associates website: https://hoare.associates/
Richard on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardhoare79/
Alison on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alison-jones-9b09893/
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge: http://proposalchallenge.com/
‘Kickstart Your Writing’ Workshop January 2024: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/666359076937
WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
Alison Jones: I’m here today with Richard Hoare, who is an entrepreneur with a profound passion for music. He’s the founder of Hoare Associates Limited, the music business consultancy, which has become the premier alternative legal services provider in the UK music industry, working with leading names such as Glastonbury Festival and Warner Group.
He is also the co-author of Do Deal, a book focused on honing negotiation skills, uncovering hidden value, and fostering strong relationships. Published by the Do Book Company, the book won the Best Short Business Book at the 2023 Business Book Awards, so yay for that, Richard, and congratulations.
Richard Hoare: Yes, still recovering from all the excitement.
Alison Jones: Was it fun?
Richard Hoare: It was amazing. I’ve never been to anything like that before in the book world. Been to lots of award ceremonies in the music industry and it was a very, very different affair.
I think slightly, slightly more wild, I would say, than some…
Alison Jones: This is the book industry for you. What can I say? You thought it was all happening in music, but no, the real rock and roll people….
Richard Hoare: So, yes, we didn’t know, we had no idea that we were going to win and it came as a tremendous shock and surprise but absolutely delighted and the feedback since has been fantastic.
Alison Jones: Oh, fantastic. Well, it was lovely seeing you, the light on your face on the night. I was talking to Miranda, your publisher, afterwards who was jumping around the room, so it was really lovely to see her joy too. Fantastic.
So I want to talk to you about negotiation, which is a bit of a dirty word, and you do it so brilliantly and it made me sort of forget that I don’t like the idea of negotiating because you really tackle it in a way I’ve never seen anybody do it before. So tell us first about your own journey and the way you concluded your first negotiation with so little negotiation.
Richard Hoare: I think, so we talk in the introduction to the book about, as you say, my first ever negotiation in the music industry. I was a fresh faced student going for a job interview for my gap year, or my sandwich year, during my law degree at the legal department of a record label.
And the negotiation by any measure, went appallingly.
Alison Jones: Well, not for the person with whom you were negotiating.
Richard Hoare: Well, exactly. So I was offered an incredibly low salary. We talk about it in the book, but I can hardly bring myself to repeat it here. And I just simply accepted it, no questions asked. And so I think what was really interesting when we were writing the book, was kind of looking back on that 20 years ago and looking at the types of negotiations which I have to deal with nowadays.
Really I suppose, seeing how far my own negotiation journey has come and I really hope, trying to encourage people who are, like you said, lots of people feel very nervous or intimidated about negotiating with people, or people with more experience at the negotiation table than them.
And really just trying to get down in a short book, which is what the awards recognized, some of those practical tools that people can bring to the bargaining table.
Alison Jones: It is worth saying though, isn’t it, that actually it wasn’t a bad deal. I mean, just because, and just talk us a little bit through the kind of the principles of negotiation and what you need to think about when you decide whether you are going to accept something that perhaps is suboptimal financially.
Richard Hoare: So that’s something that we talk about a lot in the book, is always try to consider the bigger picture, I think, because when you’re in the heat of negotiation or something, it seems very focused on one particular point. Almost without exception, there will be a wider context to that negotiation.
It’s possible to think of examples, we talk about, you know, if you are haggling in a market on holiday with someone you’re never likely to see again that’s a very different type of dynamic to most of the negotiations which we encounter in our day-to-day lives in business. Because whilst it may seem like the one and only thing that you are focusing on in that particular negotiation, the reality is that it’s part of a much bigger conversation, hopefully. And it will be about a relationship that you are seeking to develop with people over time.
So in the case of that first salary negotiation, that was a hundred percent the case. On paper it looked terrible, but in reality it gave me the first step on what’s still a very difficult ladder to get onto working in the music industry, working in legal services in the music industry is very competitive nowadays.
And so it gave me an entrance point, got me in at the ground floor, I suppose. And then over the course of the next year there, I was able to find my feet, learn lots, meet lots of interesting people. And actually, we talked about this in the book, with the benefit of hindsight, whilst it may have seemed like a terrible negotiation at the time, it was probably the best decision I ever made made to accept that job.
Alison Jones: Which is, I think, a lovely way of reframing it after the fact, but it makes that bigger point that actually you’re not negotiating, as you say, that when you’re negotiating the outcome of that specific negotiation is not the whole story. It’s much more about relationships and where that positions you for the future.
I mean, you didn’t start off as a negotiation expert, so what led you to go, do you know what, I’m going to write a book on negotiation.
Richard Hoare: Well, I was asked to do a workshop for a brilliant organization that we do some work with called the Association of Independent Music. It’s a trade body that represents all of the fabulous, independent record labels that we have in the UK. And they do a legal day for their members. And there was a session on contracts and there’s a session about suing people and session about copyright.
And we kind of got, they came to us last and it was sort of an afterthought, and they said, well, could you do a session about negotiation? And I thought, yes, happy to do that. I can kind of talk about what I know. But it occurred to me that other than, you know, some very short modules in the legal practice course, I’d had very little formal negotiation training and specifically hadn’t had any negotiation training which was really focused on the creative industries, which I think, the book Do Deal is a general purpose book, but all of the case studies come from mine and Andrew’s background working in music and the Arts because I think there’s very particular nuances about it. And so that struck a chord with me.
The initial workshop went really well, but I thought, I need to actually get my credentials up. And so I did some more formal training myself in negotiation. And after that we developed a course, which was due to launch, I think on the 22nd March, 2020, as a kind of retreat down here in Somerset for people from the music industry to come down to and hone their negotiation. But of course COVID 19 had other ideas about that, so we ended up running that course successfully online over lockdown. And found that there was a real appetite for it.
People from all different stages in their careers specifically in the music industry, who were just really keen to explore and develop these skills. As you say, it’s a bit of a dirty word, people negotiate all the time, especially in the music industry. But were, I think people were a bit shy about asking for help and when we sent out emails to everyone asking if they’d like to come and join the course. It kind of, the responses fell into two camps. The one camp was, I negotiate all the time, I don’t possibly need any training. And the other was much more kind of, open to honing their skills.
And I think well you can probably guess the type of demographics that those responses fell into.
Alison Jones: Was there a noticeable gender split, was there?
Richard Hoare: Yes, there was a gender split. There was an age split. There was you know, there was diversity split there. And actually I think there’s lots of older men who feel very confident around the negotiating table.
And so again, part of writing this book, it was so encouraging on that course seeing that the plurality of voices of people who came on the course and added their perspectives to it and the things that they found challenging with negotiation. That really, when we came to write the book, and this was where Miranda was so fantastic as well, was that she really encouraged us to really look around for case studies of negotiators and examples of situations which perhaps didn’t reflect people’s stereotypical image of, you know, Donald Trump banging his fist on the table and getting what he wants.
So, throughout the book, that’s the thing I’m proudest of really in the book, is that we draw on these examples from people who I’ve worked closely with or from, you know, even from wider culture, who we think embody and can exemplify a great modern negotiation practice.
Alison Jones: And it was really striking to me actually. You know, you talk about that sort of diversity of case studies and so on, and it isn’t just the diversity of case studies. You know, notable though that is, you also draw so many negotiation lessons from the Arts, from film, from theatre, from books. Was that a conscious choice as well?
Richard Hoare: It was, I think as I was writing the book, I was on the lookout for those examples. And you know, I think everyone kind of witnesses it, some… it’s often portrayed terribly, negotiation, in film and TV. I can’t remember whether we talk about it in the book specifically, but we definitely, Miranda and I definitely talked about it a lot, the television series Succession is brilliant at capturing the kind of the nuances of negotiation.
Those subtle power plays, the kind of the gathering of these very important, discrete pieces of information, which can make all the difference around the negotiation table, and also, of course the interpersonal challenges that come up in negotiations, particularly when it’s your own dysfunctional family, I suppose.
Alison Jones: I’m the last person on the planet who hasn’t seen Succession, so I can’t really speak to that, am sure listeners will know exactly what you are on about.
Richard Hoare: Too busy reading books by the sounds of it. But it’s brilliantly written. And yes, the negotiation in it is as true to life, I think as you’ll find on TV. Yes.
Alison Jones: Your writing is interesting as well, so apart from the sort of literary and arts references and the diversity that you’ve clearly, you know, consciously brought to it, Do Books have a really distinctive format that they’re very, very short, very punchy. They’re quite highly illustrated. And was that a helpful constraint or was it frustrating?
Richard Hoare: It was fantastic from my perspective. So I read most of the books in Do’s back catalogue before I’d even approached Miranda. I started my business about eight years ago and was switched on to the series by a friend of mine who lives in the town where we’re based. And I found the books so instructive and so helpful in terms of setting the trajectory for my business. And just everything about the series I think, I just can’t say enough good things about it. And so really when it came to writing the book, the first place I wanted to go was to chat to Miranda.
I had a mutual friend who’d illustrated one of the books, I think it was Do Disrupt, called Anthony Oram, who’s a fantastic illustrator. And he was kind enough to introduce me to Miranda. Again, this was all during lockdown, and my pitch, it was difficult pitch because everyone who has written a Do Book up until then had given a talk at the Do lectures, which happens every year in West Wales.
I’m going to next year, but I hadn’t been to it and I hadn’t given a lecture there. So it was, they were having to make an exception, but were able to do so because obviously the lectures didn’t run for the two years during Covid. So we kind of got in by the skin of our teeth and that was all the more reason to really take it seriously and try to come up with something which was going to honour all the other fantastic books in the series.
And so when it came to writing it, personally, I’ve found my part of it, it felt quite natural because I was used to the style. Andrew, my co-author, I don’t think he’ll mind sharing, found it more challenging. He’s a very experienced negotiator and I think there were probably times when the lack of, you know, with the more casual nature of the writing perhaps it wouldn’t have been his natural style.
But it was a brilliant exercise in collaboration for the both of us because we were able to combine our skills there and come up with a book which we were really proud of and which has gone on to win this award. So feel delighted.
Alison Jones: And I’m always interested in how authors write together because there’s as many different ways of doing it as there are co-authored books. What was your process?
Richard Hoare: So our process with it was that we started writing, we thought we were going to write a chapter each, sort of take it in turns. But obviously the challenge with that is ensuring that there’s a consistency of tone and style throughout it. And so what we ended up doing was we would brainstorm the chapters and the ideas. And then it was really down to me to kind of translate that into the tone that I felt comfortable with and that I thought Miranda and the Do Books team, it would fit with their style. And then back and forth with Andrew on the content and the style with mutual sign off on the end result. So it ended up being very collaborative.
Before we got to that point, we had a few kind of lively conversations. The way in which the book was going to be written. There’s some fantastic emails where we’re actually negotiating with each other in the course of writing.
Alison Jones: It’s properly walking the talk, isn’t it?
Richard Hoare: It really is, and again, I was really proud of the way we ended up with it and I think we can both be really, really proud of the finished product.
Alison Jones: That’s so funny. And for you personally, I mean obviously you know, the music industry is your natural home, writing is not necessarily normally part of that. It’s a different art form. What does writing do for you? What do you love about it? What do you hate about it?
Richard Hoare: I love the process. So the actual writing process took place over a few months during a particularly busy time. I mean, it’s always seems to be busy at work at the moment. But the only way in which we could kind of get the bulk of it done was to really commit time each day to get the words down on paper.
And for me, that had to happen first thing in the morning. So meant setting the alarm clock an hour and a half earlier probably, getting out here, I’m very fortunate, I’ve got this lovely shed in the garden here where I can…
Alison Jones: I can hear the birds in the background. It’s lovely.
Richard Hoare: …where I could escape to. And it was just that, it was getting all of that creative work done first thing in the morning before the day’s work starts or the negotiations start. Because I would find by the end of the day, I have a kind of decision making fatigue where you’ve made a million micro decisions during the course of the day. And actually ideas about what may or may not work on the page probably aren’t as well informed. So to do that first thing, before the kids are up, before I need to walk the dog, was really the best way to do it.
And I loved it.
And I’m not sure it’s something I would rush back to immediately, but I think if I were to write a book again, it would be on the same basis, up early, get everything down on paper and then work with a tremendous editor like Miranda to hone it and get it where it needs to be.
Alison Jones: And I think what’s interesting about when you are writing like that, I mean maybe all of us secretly wish we could sort of take ourselves off for a month and, you know, write in a beach hut and just immerse ourselves fully in it. But actually, when you are writing and then you’re going on to do the day job and then you’re back to the writing, it’s almost a form of reflective practice, isn’t it?
You’re sort of almost carrying the thinking that you’re doing as you write into the day and then reflecting on what you notice in the day and bringing that back into the book. And there’s a lovely synergy there.
Richard Hoare: Definitely. And then during the day when I wasn’t actually writing the book, I would be kind of, I use Trello to organize my thoughts and at work a lot. And I would be sending notes to the board that I had for the book on anything that I thought might be relevant or that we could incorporate into it, but tried to be quite disciplined about not getting drawn into writing during the course of the day. Just grab that…
Alison Jones: …just capturing.
Richard Hoare: Yes, and then do it. But I know what all these productivity gurus talk about when they say about doing this journaling practice in the morning. I think, if you’re able to do that, then I think it’s got tremendous benefits. Unfortunately, when there is not a book at the end of it, I’m finding it difficult to do anything like that with all the other challenges of life and work and all the rest of it.
Alison Jones: And it’s the golden hour, isn’t it? Before the world gets hold of you and you do your own stuff.
Richard Hoare: Yes.
Alison Jones: So I always ask my guests for their single best tip, for somebody who’s just sort of starting out on the book writing journey. If I were to ask that, what would you say?
Richard Hoare: I think treat it as something that you almost have to do. You know, I felt that it wasn’t, I wanted to write a book in the past I think, about the music industry more generally, but I didn’t necessarily, I mean, it’s possible that that could have helped people along the way, but for me, there’s a plethora of negotiation books out there, but I really didn’t feel that there was something that captured in less than 150 pages, really practical examples that spoke to you in a language that you would understand. And it just felt like something that needed to be done.
And so I think having a sense of purpose about the book is really important. And again, I think it definitely helps if there’s a publishing house or, it was very straightforward for me, in the same way that becoming a music lawyer was quite straightforward when I realized that I wanted to work in that sector. There are only a handful of firms that do that type of work, and so I was able to target my applications to those firms when I was training rather than sending off millions of job applications.
I think when it came to writing the book, I had a very clear idea of who I hoped the audience might be. And so that certainly made things more straightforward because I was able to kind of take a much more targeted approach rather than scatter gun approach in terms of approaching different publishers.
Alison Jones: Yes, it’s really interesting and it’s lovely that you had almost kind of inhaled that back catalogue and it’s hardwired in you as a writer that that’s the style, the format, the very easy to read, practical, say lighthearted. That sounds, that’s a bit crass, but it’s very real, very colloquial, very conversational.
Richard Hoare: I think they’re authentic as well. They come from people who, everyone who’s written the book is speaking…
Alison Jones: …all doing it.
Richard Hoare: …about what they’re doing. Exactly.
And it’s, yes, it’s the practical side of it. And the, you know, lots of stuff that we read about negotiations talk about the noun of a deal, the physical piece of paper and you know, whatever that entails.
I think what’s really, really fun when we’re talking about Do Deal, we’re really talking about the verb of how you deal with people.
Alison Jones: As a process.
Richard Hoare: As a process and an ongoing kind of living thing. And increasingly that seems to be the way it works, certainly in music, the relationships tend to be a lot more fluid and it’s rarer now that you see labels and publishers try to kind of put manacles around artists for you know, ten albums at a time.
It seems to be moving towards a position where those relationships and partnerships are a lot more even handed and mutual.
Alison Jones: Yes, so interesting, and I also always ask a guest to recommend a book that listeners should read if they haven’t already. So I’m really interested, whether you’re going to just basically unroll the whole of the backlist of Do Books, but try and limit yourself to a single book. What do you think people should read?
Richard Hoare: Well, anything in Do Books catalogue absolutely, yes.
Alison Jones: Taken as read
Richard Hoare: The book that I’m going to recommend is one that I wish I’d read before I’d written our book, although perhaps not, and I’ll explain why. It’s a book called The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley, who’s written some fantastic books. Another one I read called The Rational Optimist. Very, kind of, really smart, popular science books. Wrote one more recently about the Wuhan pandemic leak possibilities, which I think is slightly more controversial. But he’s an excellent writer. And The Origins of Virtue really, the subtitle is: Human instincts and the evolution of cooperation.
And it really gets to the underlying kind of science and evolutionary psychology behind a lot of what we talk about in the book and the idea that whilst we might think that people’s natural reaction is, natural tendencies are towards selfishness, actually the science doesn’t necessarily bear that out.
And throughout history, we’ve evolved in small groups and then into larger societies to develop these really quite sophisticated strategies of cooperation. And it digs really deep into some of the issues that we touch on in the book, we talk about things like game theory and the prisoners dilemma game in the book, which is fascinating, but it does a real deep dive on that stuff.
It’s quite nerdy, but it’s a brilliant read. It kind of reads like a thriller. Again, not a long book, but that’s what I recommend. The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley. Quite an old book.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. I haven’t read it and it sounds absolutely fascinating. It sounds quite hope, not hopeful, optimistic. So it’s nice to hear something positive about human nature. Brilliant.
And Richard, if people want to find out about more about you, more about your book, more about the work that you do, where should they go?
Richard Hoare: My company’s website is just hoareassociates.com. On there, there’s a page about the work we do in relation to negotiation and links to the book and whatnot. There’s also a signup link there if anyone’s interested in finding out about some of the courses we run in relation to negotiation.
I’m on LinkedIn but not on social media that much other than that.
Alison Jones: Fantastic.
Well, it’s so interesting talking to you. Thank you so much for your time today. I really enjoyed it.
Richard Hoare: Thank you so much for having me, Alison, and hope to see you soon.