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Former Luminato CEO Janice Price on: The Art of Negotiation

Never assume that people know what you expect to get out of a partnership – articulate your goals early and often.

As of March 16, 2015, Janice Price is the new CEO of The Banff Centre, stepping down as CEO of Toronto’s Luminato arts festival. It seems fitting then that Janice explain the art of negotiation when it comes to creating a partnership and asking for the roles you want.

BY Janice Price
CEO, The Banff Centre,
former CEO of Toronto’s Luminato art festival


I learned a very important lesson early in my career, a lesson that is paramount to the art of negotiating: Ask for what you want.

That may sound simple enough, but all too often we assume that people are aware of our desires – our desire to be included, to be given responsibility, to be promoted to more senior positions. Quite early in my career, while fulfilling my second staff position at CFTO-TV, a more senior role at the station became available. It was a position for which I was well trained and qualified. I knew my supervisors and the president of the company were aware of my abilities, and assumed my boss was aware that I was eager to take on a more challenging role.

I confidently awaited word that I was to be promoted, anxious but also excited at the new responsibilities I would take on. It wasn’t until I noticed that other candidates were interviewing for the position that I finally awoke from my naïve slumber and realised that, to get what I wanted, I needed to identify and articulate my desires to the people who could help me achieve my goals. I booked a meeting with the CEO, asked for what I wanted, and was awarded the promotion. Lesson learned. He, and others in senior management, had many duties and responsibilities, and while they encouraged talented young managers within the organization they were not mind readers!

A good negotiator is well researched and prepared, a good listener, and a creative thinker.

After that early experience, I spent the next dozen years working at several performing arts organizations, including Roy Thomson Hall and the Stratford Festival, and then almost a decade in the U.S. at New York’s Lincoln Center and the Kimmel Center for the Performing arts in Philadelphia. In 2006 I was recruited by Luminato’s co-founders, David Pecaut and Tony Gagliano, to launch Luminato, a multidisciplinary arts festival.

I must concede that I remember vividly the unique skill set and the many logistical challenges required to launch a successful start-up business. Even with all of the energy, commitment and excitement, each and every day requires some form of negotiation. The word “negotiation” has come to be understood in the contemporary lexicon as a financial or legal term, wherein two disparate or opposed parties come to an agreement. Yet, there are more subtle forms of negotiation, and they all require the same strategies, steps and skills.

Our philosophy at Luminato is to view the people and the organizations we work with as “partners.” And, as a partner, I need to know what my partner’s objectives are and how we can achieve those objectives together. Once I’ve completed my research and understand the objectives of the corporate, philanthropic or government partner, I can think creatively about how we may complement each other and achieve the most effective collaboration.

When Tony Gagliano and I had the opportunity to meet in early 2006 with the President and CEO of L’Oréal Canada, Javier San Juan, I had done my homework and had extensively researched the company. In the meeting, I listened intently to what San Juan was telling us: If L’Oréal was to support Luminato as a presenting sponsor they wanted to move away from the traditional event sponsorship model and become a more integrated partner. In response, I proposed something new and collaborative, thus, “Luminato and L’Oreal – Partners in Creativity” was born. This fully integrated marketing partnership was negotiated quickly to meet the deadlines of the inaugural Luminato Festival. In those early days, we found a tremendously supportive and collaborative partner in L’Oréal and continued to find interesting ways to work together to enhance the Festival experience for our shared audiences and customers.

“Take a lesson from my early experience: If you don’t ask clearly for what you want, you are not likely to receive it.”

Not all partnerships fit so perfectly right from the beginning, however. A good negotiator must know when to walk away from a potential partnership. In doing so, a future opportunity may be salvaged, when the timing and potential outcomes are more in line with each organization’s objective. A forced partnership may permanently damage the dialogue, potentially destroying any hope of building a successful relationship in the future. Timing is key, and it is important that the prospective business or personal partner knows you understand and respect the integrity of their objectives.

The art of negotiation involves careful preparation and evaluation of shared goals. A good negotiator is well researched and prepared, a good listener, and a creative thinker. To be successful in negotiating anything in life, either major business partnerships or day-to-day human relationships, one must be able to think of the larger goals while also clearly understanding the direct benefits and risks for both parties. Best of luck in your future negotiations, and take a lesson from my early experience: If you don’t ask clearly for what you want, you are not likely to receive it.


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