Negotiating QuoteApril 8th was Equal Pay Day – the Internet was buzzing with statistics, tips (and rants!) regarding the gender pay gap.

There are so many galvanizing reasons why women need to take the proverbial bull by the horns when it comes to advocating for fair pay however, one that really stands out is that by age 65, women will have lost an average of $431,000 in lifetime earnings owing to the gender pay gap. The knock-on effect of this in terms of retirement savings is very significant.

So, no matter whether you’re working in a corporate environment or establishing a startup venture, ensuring you are being valued for the work that you do is imperative. If you’re concerned that you’re not getting rewarded fairly but still feel uncomfortable about going for that raise, promotion or equity stake, here are some tips to help get you into the right headspace and close the deal – even if the person you’re negotiating with is a friend!

First, You Have To ASK!

You can bet the guy in the office next to you is doing it.

Work on overcoming your fear because no one is going to suddenly appear at your desk asking if you would like a better salary or title.

Ahead of time, think about how you are going to ask and what you want to ask for, and think long term.  If you are good at what you do, your employer will want to make you happy – unless you work someplace horrible, which is another story altogether.  Maybe you won’t get the raise or bump in title right now, but put it out there.  Plant the seeds and keep pushing.

Make sure you do your research.  I recently heard about a woman who was going to accept a raise she was offered thinking that her boss was being very fair and generous.  But when she did a little digging, it turned out that others at her level were being paid significantly more.  So find out your value and then ask for what you are worth, not a penny less.

Get It In Writing – It’s Not Pushy, It’s Smart

If you get a new job, or raise, or promotion, or extra vacation days – or whatever – if there is not an employment agreement that sets forth these terms, make sure you at least have email correspondence that says something like:

Dear Jane: Thank you so much for speaking with me today.  This is to confirm our discussion today in which it was agreed that my salary increase to $100,000 per year will go into effect as of May 1, 2014.

This way, you have a record of what you were promised and there is no opportunity for the other person to conveniently not remember (or deny!) what was agreed to.

Fair Terms or Friendship?

Sometimes the hardest deals to negotiate are those where the person sitting across the table is a friend or relative.  People often start companies or ventures with people they already know and like.  It’s easy to drift along and not tackle the hard business and legal issues. For example:

  • Who gets paid, how much and when?
  • Who owns what is being created, including any trademarks or other intellectual property, such as a website.
  • What happens if things don’t work out?  Who, if anyone, keeps control of the business?

Most attorneys have heard this from clients at one time or another:  “We don’t need an agreement – we’re best friends.”  To that I say – that’s exactly when you need one!

Don’t hesitate to clarify expectations at the very beginning of your working relationship – don’t be afraid you will be offending someone. Really, the worst thing you can do is not talk about business and legal issues upfront.

Do not assume that because you are friends, you are on the same page when it comes to how to run a business or how to divide and manage company assets.  Failing to get it worked out early can often lead to costly legal disputes later on that inevitably ruin relationships.  So even if it feels uncomfortable – force yourself to make a list of the issues to be tackled and address them with your business partner as soon as you can.

If you’re an entrepreneur and currently unable to access legal counsel owing to financial constraints, apply to Reavis Parent Lehrer LLP ‘s Entrepreneur Program. Each month, RPL attorneys will provide pro bono legal counsel to one startup company on matters such as entity formation, legal aspects of financing, intellectual property protection and employment issues. For more information, including how to apply, click here.