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BBA Meets to Learn about Negotiating Skills

Feb 26, 2015 09:00PM ● By Pamela Johnson

Jones River Consulting’s Alan Wheelock and BBA President John Orthman

story & photo by Marjorie Hollman, Contributing Writer

Despite the frigid weather, the Bellingham Business Association (BBA) found lots of warmth for their monthly meeting in February at Lowell’s restaurant, located on the Bellingham/Mendon line. The meeting’s guest speaker, Alan Wheelock, of Jones River Consulting, is a former Sr. Vice President of Iron Mountain, which offers document shredding and data and management-records services. Wheelock filled his presentation with true stories of experiences he has had negotiating multi-million dollar contracts with companies that ranged in size from small to mid-sized to Fortune 500.

Wheelock noted, “Negotiating is not just a business skill, it’s a life skill.” He continued, “I learned negotiation the hard way, by doing it. And I made some mistakes along the way. But I learned that there are only a few very distinct types of negotiators, and once I figured that out, I learned that my job was to adapt to whatever style negotiator I met.”

Wheelock’s presentation divided negotiators into six distinct categories. Simple, right? In some ways, yes. But as I listened closely to what Wheelock had to say, it became apparent that the most successful negotiator has done his homework, is well-prepared, has anticipated the arguments of the other side, and has learned to speak the language of the person on the other side of the table. That’s a lot of work! Not so easy at all.

Wheelock offered key advice: keep calm, don’t get defensive, have the facts, be as prepared as the competition, tell the truth, know your own bottom line, never agree to something that is unfair, strive for an agreement everyone can feel good about, foster trust and respect, and, perhaps most important, be willing to walk away.

The conversation afterwards made it clear that members of the BBA found great value in Wheelock’s presentation and were interested in continuing the conversation.  For more information on negotiating, contact Wheelock at Jones River Consulting, 781-588-7537 or [email protected].

Hearing speakers of this caliber is just one of the benefits of membership in the BBA. Networking is another, and there will be opportunities for business networking coming up at the organization’s next meeting, which will be held on Wednesday, March 11, 6—8 pm, at the Charles River Bank in Bellingham. Members and non-members are welcome; there is a $10 charge per person. A business-after-hours event is scheduled for Thursday evening, March 26, location TBA.

The BBA is a nonpolitical, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization comprising business owners and self-employed individuals situated in and around Bellingham. For more information, visit




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